Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Corner Samaritan

By Michelle de Carion, staff writer

I woke up at 3 a.m. in my hotel room in Sendai, Japan, with sharp pains in my pelvis area. My whole body was shaking, and when I tried to move the pain got worse. I attempted to get out of bed to get some water, but I almost fainted trying to walk. I was scared.

We were flying back to the U.S. early that morning, and all I could do was pray that I would make it onto the plane. I took some ibuprofen to help with the pain and fell asleep.

I made it to Chicago, where I was staying with a friend for a few days. She had pain-relieving medicine and fluids on hand to help me. The next morning, it took about 20 minutes to walk to the nearest hospital.

Within about four hours, I had been examined, tested, been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, and was on my way to the drugstore to get prescribed antibiotics. I started the medicine right away, and after one day was already feeling better.

It’s easy for me to go to corner drugstore to get medicine for a fever, stomach bug, or sore throat. If it’s something really serious, a hospital is a 911 call away. I know that in any situation, medicine and treatment is available.

But the sad truth is that this is not common around the world. In poverty-stricken areas, families don’t have aspirin in their back pocket, or even a decent bandage.

I was in Honduras last week to cover a new Samaritan’s Purse health project called “the Village Samaritan.” Men and women in remote communities are trained to monitor the health of the families and help take care of basic health needs. We give them a cabinet full of basic medicines to treat the most common illnesses.

Families in these remote communities make about $100 a month and can be hours away from the nearest clinic or drugstore. No one owns a car, and many times they don’t have the money to take a bus to get down the mountain. And if they do, they likely don’t have money for the medicine they need after seeing a doctor.

I can’t even imagine not having a corner drugstore in my neighborhood. There often are two stores right across the road from each other because of competitive markets!

Like most people, I’ve come down with a cold or fever, or have been cut in an accident. But at those times, I can get some medicine or a bandage with antibiotic ointment.

Yet Hondurans in the mountains of Santa Barbara and Yoro state have to travel for hours to get to the nearest clinic. If the illness is really serious, the person could have died by then.

Most of us are educated enough to know that certain symptoms indicate certain illnesses, like a cold, the flu, or food poisoning. But sadly, most Hondurans don’t even have a high-school education, and know absolutely nothing about the anatomy of the body or the causes of disease.

If I had been living in one of these villages when I got the urinary infection, I might have waited weeks for it to clear up, allowing the bacteria to infect my kidneys, which could have led to death. If I didn’t have the money for antibiotics, I simply would not get medicine and continue to get worse.

In the United States we often complain about our health care system, the ways we think it should work, or be improved. But whenever I go overseas, I become so thankful for the mere fact that we have a drugstore on every corner. That’s why I love the Village Samaritan.

He’s on the street corner of the community, ready and equipped to serve with the heart of Jesus. It’s not about just giving medicine, it’s about being a friend to the one who feels forgotten and hopeless.