Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and Christmas season!

This Christmas I had an experience that I think every non-pervert, non-stinky, non-creepy man should get to enjoy—being Santa Claus.  When Dr. Judy, who runs the Sanctuary House Children’s Center (the orphanage), asked me to be Santa for the kids, I was honored and just a little bit nervous.  Could I gain enough weight in 3 weeks to pass for the pudgy ol’ elf?  Was my voice deep enough to get that hearty guttural ‘Ho Ho’ just right?  Were my cheeks rosy enough?  Did my eyes twinkle?  And, oh shoot, I don’t have dimples…

Well after a steady diet of Baleadas and Pastelitos, I got up to my Santa weight, and Dr. Judy supplied me a costume.  I dabbed some of Heidi’s lipgloss on my cheeks and nose, brushed up on some Spanish Christmas words (Renos/Reindeer, Trineo/sleigh), and away we went.

It was magical to see some of the younger kids look at me with wonder.  We had a night where they visited with Santa, got their pictures taken, and told him what they wanted for Christmas (luckily they had been coached on their ‘options.’). Then, Christmas Eve day, Santa visited the Sanctuary House and handed out toys to all the kids.  Afterward on a whim, we grabbed a bin full of coloring books (brought down last year by Dr. Chris Trammell) threw them in the back of our pickup, and Santa visited the village of Lucinda a mile down the road.  It was fun to honk the horn, ring a bell, and see the kids come out with surprise on their faces, marveling at Gringo Santa in the back of a rusty Nissan Pickup.  Our kids acted as the elves, handing me the gifts as we went.

It was a really cool experience to do the ‘Santa Claus’ thing with kids.  You see, Heidi and I are those freak-show parents that told our kids that Santa isn’t real.  Actually, we didn’t tell them he isn’t real, we just told him he’s dead…  (No, seriously)

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A few pics from the festivities:

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Dr. Alexander might have gotten coal this year.  Nah, just kiddin’.

The following are 3 seemingly unrelated stories, which I will connect in the end…

I was on call for Christmas, and after a relaxing morning opening stockings and enjoying coffee, I was called down to the emergency department to see a young man.  Whenever I enter the ER, I’m always apprehensively curious to see what’s in store.  I just never quite know what to expect here.

In this instance, as I entered the room I saw tubes with IV fluids, blood and urine coming and going from a body, bloody bandages, bruised and swollen cheeks, and grim faces surrounding a young man.  Twenty-three year old Elvis was accompanied by various family members who brought him in after having the absolute crap beat out of him.  What a way to spend Christmas.  His cold stare and diffusely tattooed body made me realize that there was a good chance he wasn’t out pedaling Bibles at the local street corner.  (FYI, I have a tattoo).

It was actually worse than just a good beating.  Apparently he had an “encounter” early Christmas morning, and was beat up by a ‘thug,’ or possibly more than one thug.  His history was pretty sketchy.  He thought they shot him in the back of the neck, but our exam and X-rays showed pretty clearly that they opted for a Machete chop to the back of the neck.   His face was bruised and battered as well.  After sustaining these injuries, he went home.  But then, remarkably, he went back.  Be it pride, alcohol, or just very poor judgement, he returned to the ‘scene of the crime.’  The thugs this time decided to stop messing around, and they proceeded to shoot him in the right arm with a shotgun.  This pretty much ended the ‘fight,’ and he and his family found their way to a hospital.  There, they stuck tubes in all his holes, put IV’s in, wrapped up wounds, and told him to go to a hospital that had a Cat Scan.  So they came to our hospital (we don’t have a cat scan, but we did the best we could) and that’s where Dr. Dave awesomejunglesurgeon Alexander and I came in.

To make a long story short, he eventually left our hospital after having had surgery, better than when he came in, but with some permanent injuries (partial facial paralysis, partial paralysis of his right arm).  I wanted to share this story with you for us to consider his desperate plight.  On Christmas morning he was not in his home with his family enjoying hot coffee, opening presents, or reflecting on the Hope of this season.  He was out in the street almost getting killed.  I don’t know his story, but that seems to be a desperate plight that I can’t seem to imagine.  It is a story that many people have shared here in Honduras.

Story number 2:

We just discharged 5 year old Aileyah from the hospital, after a 10 day stint, who we are fairly certain has Cystic Fibrosis.  Further testing can confirm it, but for now we are left doing the best that we can, which is to say there is not much that can be done.  Caring for a child with CF usually takes a comprehensive team, and a lot of medical resources, both of which are very limited here.  Her prognosis is grim.

Story number 3:

Mirian came in yesterday bleeding.  She was 3 months pregnant, and eager to have a second child.  Sadly, her husband took their first child and absconded to the States.  She reports that he successfully navigated the border, although without a VISA.  This left me unsure of whether he did it legally or not.  It’s clear, however, that it was against Mirian’s wishes, and she doesn’t know when or if she will see them again.  And unfortunately, she had miscarried.  It’s widely felt that if you have a child with you when you go to the border, you will get through without fail or peril.

I shared these 3 stories with you for some slight perspective on life in Honduras.  It is very easy to dismiss the people making their way from Central America to the United States by way of the caravan.  Most of these people are trying to escape poverty and violence, or better their family’s life.  Questions arise, such as “why doesn’t their government deal with them?”  (hint:  It  doesn’t care).  “Why was the US detaining children?  answer:  see above, children are your free ticket across the border, even if they aren’t your children to take…    “I don’t want to pay to support all those people…”  Valid point.  However, many of these people are hard workers.  Ask an orchardist why they higher immigrant farmworkers…   Answer:  Most Northamericans aren’t willing to work that hard…

Well, I can tell you that some of the people here are desperate.  And most of the people here think that entry into the United States is a ticket to happiness, and a better life for their children.  It’s a very complicated issue with no easy answer, and I certainly don’t envy our Government’s Leadership in trying to sort it out.  I do challenge you to ask yourself, what would you do in similar circumstances.  If I thought I could find a cure for my child, or escape violence and corruption for my family, I know what I would do.  This sentiment is not meant to be political, but rather to provoke empathy.

Hey, let’s finish this blog with some happy thoughts, ehh?   I don’t think you’ve laughed enough during this reading.  I’m feeling a little Debbie Downer…

Jamal got a new leg.  If you remember, we had a 12 year old boy who had his leg amputated a year or so ago.  Well, thanks to the time and talents of James Redhead, prosthetist and fellow Washingtoninan, Jamal is sporting a new leg.  It reminds me of this fun little moment in Forrest Gump…  Lieutenant Dan got new legs.  Magic legs…

One of our favorite visiting doctors  (Renee!) shared a funny story with me.  Her patient had been losing a lot of weight for 7 months, and so another doctor suggested that it might be a sign that he had diabetes.  He then went on to suggest that the patient taste his urine, to see if it was sweet, thus confirming the diagnosis.    –As a doctor I think, hey, that’s clever, however I prefer to do a blood test to diagnose diabetes.  But that’s just me..

Photo tour:

Well, we had another Viper bite come into the hospital.  It is always helpful when they bring in the venomous culprit, as the Barba Amarilla is easy to identify, and it usually warrants swift treatment with Antivenom.  In this case, we treated this young woman and she responded nicely over a day and night of treatment.  It can be a life or limb threatening emergency, but fortunately not this time.  Below, is a baggie with the dead snake in it.

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I got home one afternoon after delivering a rather messy baby.  Apparently blood was splattering everywhere.  This was my battle attire…
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It rained a lot recently, and the field in front of our house got a little muddy.  Then, kids started playing in it.  Eventually, they became one with it…
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We made some Christmas cookies, with a ‘modified’ recipe.  Needless to say, they were rubbish.   Here, Heidi is trying to coax one of the baby chicks to eat one of the horrible cookies, but the chick will have nothing to do with it.  So bad, even chickens rejected them…
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Upon returning to Honduras after a trip in the States, this is how I found my motorcycle.  Ol’ Dr. Dave strikes again.
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We have a poinsettia growing in the courtyard at the hospital, and yes, it blooms at Christmas time!  It’s more of a tree, really.
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Cool bird that Miss Meredith caught.  Not sure, she might have eaten it…  It’s called a Motmot.  We call them ‘Tick Tocks’ as their tail looks like a clock pendulum.
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We had an outdoor prayer time and service one evening at the orphanage.

This is just funny.  Owen, you make us laugh…  This is what online home school does to a fella.

Have a great New Year…

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