Sitting on the end of the hospital “bed” (little more than a mattress sitting on the grubby, tiled floor), the pink bracelet on my daughter's wrist taunted me.
I looked around the ward – some mattresses with women lying prostrate, mosquito nets tied above them and ceiling fans and lights which would never come on. The only thing which could have been labelled as “equipment” was the drip stand which was now feeding drugs in to my girl's bloodstream after a number of painful, abortive attempts by unskilled fingers to find a vein. In this we were lucky, another patient's IV was tied to one of the bars on the window beside their mattress. Our daughter was crying out to me and to the others around me in pain, panic and fear. The doctors reckoned they knew what was wrong but qualified their confidence by explaining that the tests they had the ability of running were severely restricted.
My eyes fell on that pink bracelet. A gift from a friend who works as a doctor in some excellent hospitals. The unfairness of our world screamed in our faces. I could feel anger swell up within me but it was accompanied by something I hadn't felt before in moments like this – it was a sense of guilt or maybe shame. I was being confronted with the question, “Is this the best you can do for your daughter?” I felt a pathetic sense of powerlessness intensified by what that bracelet represented – everything that was needed existed and was available to me. It was just somewhere else.
As I travelled home that evening I wondered if this was what my life was going to be like. Trying to care for people I love in a place that does all it can to prevent you from doing just that. Obviously I was feeling a little sorry for myself. But I don't really feel like I chose this. We are born in to our families. We don't choose them. That's how I feel about our ministry here. Like I didn't choose it any more than I chose my surname. There are times when I panic about money or get frustrated and get to feeling sorry for myself and I wonder about whether this is the place for me or not. And in those moments I could almost get annoyed about that familial connection. Because it refuses any attempts at shaking it off. This doesn't mean that my place in the family will never change but it probably means that I'm going to care about it for ever. Whether I like it or not.
(And yes, she did get better, praise the Lord and the doctors doing lifesaving work in the bush.)