You will not believe what happened to me today!
I am back in the hospital in Cubulco, exactly one year after I left Guatemala. I am here to learn more about the work that is being done in this incredible place and to make a video about that. Yesterday a team of about ten doctors arrived in Guatemala City where they stayed the night in ‘our house’, the AMG team house. This morning I had the honour to travel with them to Cubulco, about six hours away from the city, where the temperature and the altitude are much higher. We left around 8 in the morning and the bus ride was so hot and uncomfortable that it was hard to keep my brains from boiling. It was over 30 degrees and the humidity was kind of slowly killing all of us. I eventually even had a sunburn on only my left arm because I tried to cool off by hanging out of the window. When we finally arrived in Cubulco around two in the afternoon, we hit the ground running as team leader Sheila (I know you are reading this) said so beautifully. We did not even unpack our bags, we just went up to the examination rooms right away. Since my Spanish is not that impressive and I don’t even know the names of all the organs in Dutch, I was assigned to another translator and nurse named Greysi and Doctor Daniel, a general surgeon.
The examination rooms were so incredibly hot that I struggled to not pass out, but it was so interesting that I didn’t want to leave the room. Who would have thought I would ever be in a Guatemalan hospital translating between super smart American doctors who I just met and their patients, wearing a World Health Outreach t-shirt? Is this really happening?! There were people coming in with warts, gallbladders that had to be removed, hernias, cysts and even a boy with blocked saliva glands, a woman with breast cancer and someone who claimed to have an inflamed appendix, but did not show any signs of horrendous pain. After a good amount of patients I was transferred to Doctor Chen, who is 46 but looks not a day older than 30 and actually spoke a few words of Spanish, so it wasn’t really hard to translate. Medical translation is actually not as hard as it sounds, because every examination starts with questions like what is your name? How old are you? Why are you here? Do you have any pain? Are you allergic to something? Did you have any previous surgeries? Do you have other medical problems? Where does it hurt? And once you know how to ask that, you’re already halfway there. Until you have to translate things like ‘drainage’, ‘duct tape’ or ‘high bloodpressure’…
But what hit me most today was a conversation I had with Doctor Chen, while we were waiting for a patient to come back with the ultrasounds. I asked him how it is possible that he knows what to do with every single patient, even though they have very different problems. He told me he studied for more than fifteen years to have the incredible knowledge that he has now. Four years of college, four years of medical school and then seven years of practice. Fifteen years!
“Yeah, but I think my work will never have the impact that your work has. No matter how many people I help. No matter how many lives I save.”
“Because you talk about God. I can save people’s lives, but they will never be really saved if they do not know who God is.”
Wow. Once again there’s someone who shows me that whenever I feel useless I have to look a little further than what I see. Just like José Luis did when he compared me to Jesus just because I translated between him and the Dutch group. But do I really talk about God as much as I want to? Do people really get to know God through me? Am I really doing what I am supposed to be doing here? No, I don’t think so. But I am learning and with every amazing experience I see more of how great God is. And the more I see, the more I want to tell someone about Him.
As I am writing this there are doctors delivering a beautiful baby girl a few meters away from me. Tomorrow six more people will be relieved from the pain they are having for months. And the day after that there are other people getting the help they’ve been waiting for for so long. What an experience.
Then sings my soul, how great Your love is, how great Your love is.