You know, not every story at Galmi has a funny moment or blog-post-worthy victory.
It is nearly impossible to walk from one end of our hospital to the other without being stopped by a suffering patient who is desperate for pain medication or barely clinging to life.
We work tirelessly to keep patients alive, and in the end, they still die. Despite all efforts.
It's exhausting. And discouraging.
But lately I find myself ducking behind a wall . . . it's not too high, but just enough that I can drop to my knees and hide behind it for a little while.
And I confess, I'm struggling with that.
I know boundaries are necessary for survival. I've read all kinds of books on the subject. I know they are healthy and important to keep. Without them, we wouldn't survive.
But 'having boundaries' is not where I'm battling with myself . . . my inner dialogue is about walls. What's the difference between a 'boundary' and a 'wall'?
I would say that a 'boundary' is a conscious behavioral parameter that one sets in order to maintain healthy relationships and balance. A 'wall' however, is for self-protection . . . to keep them out and me in.
I'd even suggest that 'walls' are much more unconsciously built . . . a product of habit or the outcome of deep hurt.
It came as quite a shock to me early last week when I realized I was in the process of building a wall.
I was told by the OR staff that there was a new burn patient coming in for a debridement . . . and I needed to stick around to help them out. But by the time our other patients were done with their burn dressing changes, he never arrived.
As I went back to the ward to start therapy treatments, I spotted him in one of our four as-close-to-an-ICU-as-we-can-get-at-the-moment beds. He had been lathered in zinc-oxide cream, which made him look like an inside-out Oreo.
I went to his bed and gave his family some instructions on caring for him while he was in the hospital: the importance of using his mosquito net, of turning the overhead fan off if he felt cold, of washing his clothing and sheets with water at least once a day, changing his sheets right away if they become soiled.
He tried to speak to me, but his face and throat were so swollen from the burns, sounds hardly came out.
I picked up his chart to find out what happened: a gasoline explosion.
I looked at his age: 18.
I looked where he was from: northern Nigeria.
I looked at the extent of his burns: 95%.
But I didn't look at his name.
I knew he was not going to survive. With 95% of his total body surface area burned, his chance of survival in a Burn Intensive Care Unit of a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in the West would be considerably low . . . but here, where we have no intubation, no ventilators, no trachs, no heart monitors . . . he was given pain meds to make him as comfortable as possible, but that was it . . . that was all we could do.
It wasn't until two days after he died that I realized I didn't know his name.
What bothered me, wasn't that I didn't know his name. What bothered me was that it didn't bother me that I didn't know his name.
I had built a wall in order to survive.
But then, today, I lost another burn patient. She was 17 and had fallen into boiling water.
The difference was, I knew her name. And I knew her mother. And we walked circles around the hospital. And I tried to keep her alive.
So as I sit here grieving, I still have no 'right answers' about my walls. I do know that, like it or not, sometimes they are there. And some days I wish they were shorter, and other days I wish they reached as high as the minarets in town.
And regardless of what my 'right answers' will be, I have no doubt that if I am to live like Jesus, it means when the bleeding woman in the crowd reaches out, I am to stop and ask 'Who touched me?'