Monday, July 19, 2010

The beginning of Week 2

(please especially don't forward this post onto anyone without my permission, political content ahead)

Back in Nelspruit today. This week will be working in Rob Ferriera Hospital, a fairly urban public hospital here, as compared to the rural clinic we were in last week.

Last night before we left the unincorporated township where the rural clinic is, we had dinner at the home of Dr Ian Proudfoot and his wife Joan. With the luxury of sitting over a lovely dinner in a warm room (I don;t believe there was another warm spot in all of the township. As soon as we got "home" every night, I had to go to bed because I was too cold to be anywhere else), I was able to hear more of Ian's story about how he ended up in this rural area, and it was so extraordinary and touching, I had to share it.

So as I mentioned before, Ian had spent his whole life (up until 18 months ago) in Cape Town, and had spent the first 20 years of his practice there in the private sector. In South Africa there is a public system and a private system. The private system is for well-off people with insurance and money. It is a high quality system, indistinguishable from what you would find in a good US hospital. The public system is government run and known to be overtaxed, underresourced, etc. 80% of physicians work in the private sector, 20% of people in the country can afford private insurance. So the other 20% of physicians are taking care of 80% of the patients, with lesser salaries. Can you do the math and see why the public system is over-taxed?

Anyhow, Ian was working in the private sector, was feeling like he wanted to move to the public sector the more he heard and understood the need. He was exploring different options, and concurrently he and his wife traveled to the eastern part of the country to visit their favorite spot, Kruger national Park, for a weekend holiday. In looking for accomodations during their trip, they found that this clinic, ACTS, had very cheap accomodations close to the park, so they decided to stay there. While checking in there, they found out Ian was a dr and started trying to sell him on working in the clinic, as they were looking for another dr. He was skeptical at first, but he and his wife started discussing it as he had been looking for options in the public sector.

So they are driving through the park, and see 3 people sitting on the edge of the road. For those of you who haven't been to Kruger, you DON'T get out of the car. There are wild animals everywhere, and they walk in and out of the roads, and it is seriously dangerous to not follow the rules. Getting out is dangerous, sitting on the side of the road more so. They assumed the people were refugees from one of the countries northward. Apparently many refugees cross through the park, as it is not gated very well on it's northern border, but it is VERY VERY dangerous and many are killed in the process.

They drive a kilometer further down the road, and see a pride of Lions, close to the road, staring back in the direction they had come, where the refugees were. They had a very intent stare. They continued driving, and Joan became more and more uneasy, and said, "we have to go back and get those refugees, I have a bad feeling." So they went back to the refugees. They tried to talk with them, the refugees did not understand their language. So they gestured into the car. Meanwhile, they can see the lions in the distance, stalking closer and closer. The refugees refused to get in the car, likely nervous because of their "illegal" status. Finally, Joan and Ian pulled out their game book and showed a picture of a lion, pointed to the road where the lions were in the distance, and the refugees got in the car. They then weren't sure what to do with the refugees, but found a ranger to take them out of the park.

Later, while they were getting ready for bed, both of them felt simultaneously like it was meant to be for them to move to the Mpumalanga province and for Ian to work at the ACTS clinic. And as they put this out in the open, and realized they were on the same wavelength, Joan remembered a dream that a friend had shared with them. She had told them that she had had a dream about Ian and Joan recently, and that the imagery of the dream was abstract, but the way she had understood the dream was "once you save someone's life, the path of your life will change." And this further solidified their decision to stay.

And 18 months later, they are at total peace with the decision. Even with daily drives down an unpaved, muddy road, car getting stuck often, black mamba snakes (the most deadly snake in the world) on their front porch, etc.

I just thought that story was so touching and beautiful, I had to share it.

More later on my thoughts about being back in Rob Ferriera and an urban setting, tired now and must go to bed.

1 comment:

Jan Worth-Nelson said...

Dear Lauren, I am just catching up with your blog and this entry knocked my socks off. Wow. Your mom and dad and I are looking forward to skyping with you in awhile -- I am proud of you and everything you're doing there, and I'm so glad you're keeping this account. Much love -- j.