It may sound crazy but sometimes I can forget that I’m living in the jungle. Sure there are the daily sounds of toucans and howler monkeys beckoning me to the realities around me but after a while their calls become just another sound in the ordinary daily routines of life. Sometimes, however, the jungle gets in your face and forces you to see the reality in which you have been living in the whole time. That in your face moment happened to me this past Friday but let me start at the beginning.
Clinic this past Friday was unusually slow which was a welcome change from the past several weeks which have seen several visiting specialists including orthopedics, urology, pediatric surgery and ophthalmology. Each team provides much needed specialized care that our patients would not otherwise get, but it also provides more work for those of us who call this hospital in the jungle their home. Because clinic was relatively lite on Friday I was able to try to catch up on charting, e-mail exchanges and other admin stuff that goes along with patient care. As I was trying to focus on getting caught up as fast as I could, one of our on staff pastors popped his head into terapia and very matter of factly said, “there is an iguana in terapia”.
I thought I misheard him but he said the exact same thing again. My natural inclination was to do a quick survey of the room behind me and upon completing my scan without viewing the “intruder” I naturally asked, “Well, where is he?”, to which the pastor responded, “Close the doors and you will see him”. I think the long weeks have been getting to me, or at least that is the only explanation I have for why I closed one door while the pastor closed the other, leaving me alone in terapia with “an iguana” that I could not see even when the doors were open.
After about a minute of cautiously walking around the room I decided that either this is a horrible prank or I am the world’s worst iguana spotter or both. So I opened the door again only to find that the pastor was nowhere to be found. I probably would have went back to working but just then one of our Honduran maintenance workers, let’s call him Burt, came around the corner. I thought to myself, surely Burt would be able to spot an iguana if there really was one and so I convinced Burt to come into terapia for a quick look. Even though Burt got on his hands and knees, there was no iguana to be found. Needing to get back to work I decided to shrug it off and keep plugging away at the computer.
Fast forward about 2 hours after having 2 relatively complicated emergency room patients (since I was on ER call) and I had all but forgotten “Iguana gate 2019”. One of those patients was a woman in her 60’s with a very complex medical history who had been in and out of our hospital many times trying to stabilize all her comorbid conditions. These comorbid conditions seemed to all come together Friday to create a perfect storm that culminated in her having a gastrointestinal bleed which required emergent medications and 2 units of blood with an additional unit on standby as her hematocrit had dropped to 14 (normal for a women is above 38). Usually when a patient needs blood we ask the patients family to donate (after confirming that they are a match) and if more is needed then we go to the “blood donor list” to see which employees/ missionaries/ random people from the community who have been willing to be an “on call donor” are a blood match.
It just so happened that besides one of the patient’s family members, I also was the patient’s blood type and so that left only one more person to find. It did not take long to get another willing participant. As I waited for the third donor to come down to the hospital, one of our Honduran lab technicians and I prepped the supplies needed and once finished I lay down on one of the beds in terapia in preparation for having my blood taken. Well, the third blood donor had not been in terapia longer than 30 seconds before he said, “Woah, there is an iguana in terapia!”. Low and behold, there was an iguana lounging on the vital signs monitor right next to the bed I was laying on. Good thing it wasn’t a snake!
Thankfully it is not everyday that a wild animal wanders into terapia or that I have to give a patient blood but it is in these moments that I am brought back to the reality I live in, that God has orchestrated and continues to orchestrate countless miracles to enable this small mission hospital in the middle of the jungle in rural Honduras to provide lifesaving care to local families who would have no other option due to location, resources and finances. It is “big picture” moments like these that help breath life and purpose into the seemingly ordinary and mundane routines of life. My prayer is that our eyes and ears would be in tune to the moving of God’s spirit in and around us and that through renewed minds we would walk in his will and the good works he has already prepared for us to do daily, even in the midst of the seemingly ordinary.
For those who are wondering what happened to the iguana, we left him to rest on the vital signs monitor and presume he found his way to another part of the jungle without too much trouble. As far as the patient who needed blood, she stabilized but still needs prayer for healing.