Hard Work and Compassion in a Far-Away Place

My first day was everything I had hoped for, and one thing I didn’t.

The country and the people are amazing. We had to drive across a river and go into the mountains to reach our destination. But once we arrived, the people of Le Pretre were incredibly happy to see us. Word must have spread about our arrival.

We quickly figured out where we needed to set up the medical and dental clinics, and got to work. My job today was to help set up and distribute our pharmacy. Thanks to some fundraising by St. John’s parishioner David Todd, and Dr. Tom Milam’s connections at Carilion, we were able to bring three large suitcases full of needed medications and other medical supplies. I stayed busy in our makeshift pharmacy!

What most impacted me today was how hard our medical staff worked, and the compassion they showed one family.

An older man entered our clinic today with his two daughters. They had traveled an hour to be there. Dr. John Priddy examined him and quickly discovered that the patient was terminally ill. He had an abdominal aneurysm and most likely advanced cancer. It was heartbreaking to learn that although we were there to help people, one of our first patients was going to die, and there was nothing we could do help.

Through an interpreter, Dr. Priddy told the man and his daughters that he was going to die. We gave him medication for the pain, Eric administered last rites, and we made sure he had the most comfortable way to get back home.

I went into today expecting nothing but joy in helping those of us who are most in need. But I had a rude awakening: sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it just isn’t enough.

I am incredibly thankful to those in our group who are providing their medical skills, and am already looking forward to tomorrow.

Mike Leigh
St. John’s Episcopal, Roanoke, Va.

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