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It's Not Easy

It's our task to give hope to our patients, to share their pain and help them to keep going.
By: Peter Fenoy

Summarizing the events of the past few weeks isn’t an easy task since I faced an awful lot of new situations and met so many new people-each one with their own hopes & fears, dreams and anxieties… I believe I’m living a unique experience which may make a lasting impression on my life, and hopefully will make me a better person.

What to say about the clinic? Before anything else, it offers a wonderful possibility to gain surgical experience. Step by step I am acquiring the technical skills necessary to become a good physician. I try to be a responsible student so to better help patients in need.

The people we treat are nothing like the medicine-book cases. Often, the patient’s illness no longer resembles the handbook’s description. This is health care on the edge. Why is medicine so extreme here? Financial need makes people postpone medical treatment, so most cases we receive have progressed greatly, mutated along the way or are in the last stages of the disease.

It’s not easy to witness this human suffering. Some cases have no medical solution, or the technology to treat them isn’t available. It’s hard to tell a father-of-one his three-year old will die and there is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid it… It’s hard to tell a father of a 14-year old, whose abdomen we opened, that a malignant tumor has spread over his whole body and there is nothing we can do… It’s hard to lose a mother, drenched in post-delivery blood, while her husband is waiting outside-anxious for the doctor to bring good news… It’s not easy.

But we try our best and the rest remains in God’s hands. We are no gods. We should realize this very well. We are merely His tools. If we put our hopes and skills in His hands, and let Him lead the way, we can push through in difficult cases. We know we did our best, but the final decision is not ours to take. At such a time, it’s our task to give hope to our patients, to share their pain and help them to keep going. I hope God will teach me how to do this properly.

However, the picture is not entirely black. The time spent with the patients is also very rewarding. In being part of a network which tries to save human lives, one feels very useful - a feeling which nobody can take away from me. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve others. I’ve also started to realize that the world is not only about me and what I want, but that there are a lot of people who may be in need of my assistance, if only to offer a kind word which may bring peace to their hearts.
I’m not alone here. I live together with other missionaries who have put their lives at the service of others. Dr. Delgado and his wife, the couple with whom I live, have spent the last 15 years helping others. Dr. Delgado is an excellent doctor. His technical skills are impressive. As my supervisor, he teaches me the clinic’s daily practice.

Unfortunately, my level of French doesn’t allow me to take consultations; but I can practice surgery and develop other manual medical skills. I also hope to learn French quickly so I can start taking consultations as well.

Daily life is a routine. I’m at the clinic from dusk till dawn, so when I come home I just want to eat and sleep. Sometimes we finish early so I can read a bit or do some exercises, but this seldom happens, since we don’t finish until we have treated all the people who come to the clinic.

Weekends are quiet, especially Sabbath, when we attend church. Sometimes we visit the countryside. The splendid joys of the African bush show the marvelous hand of God who created all of this just to make us happy.

This about summarizes my life here. I’d like to tell you more about my thoughts and feelings, or some changes in my points of view, but that would take some time and may not be of relevance for the moment. In any case, you have a fair idea of what’s currently going on in my life.

Remember there’s always a way to help others - wherever you are.

By: Peter Fenoy

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Peter Fenoy with young patient. In surgery at the clinic. Left to Right: Dr Delgado, Peter Fenoy and Dr Basso.