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Monday, April 28, 2014
One Orange A Week
Last night I had the opportunity to work with a surgeon who was once a refugee.
When I started medical school, he was still in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. This surgeon is Vietnamese.
He stayed in this camp for four years.
There was no work expected of the refugees. Food was given, and although it was good, there was no variety to the food so it proved tiresome.
They were given no fruits--no apples, no oranges--with the meals with the exception of one orange every week. This is too prevent scurvy, a disease of the connective tissue due to lack of vitamin C.
At Christmas they were given the packages from all the charities, and also once in a while the charities would come with the old shoes and 'gently used' clothing to help meet their needs.
The boat ride took twenty three days to cross over to the states. Twenty three days on the open water of the Pacific with no restroom on board the boat. It was at most, ten feet long.
Well how do you pee? How do you poop? I'm a doctor, and a MOM! I want to know.
He said, 'you are so low to the water, you could touch it. You just hang your bottom over the edge and let it go in--pee or poop.'
I wish I'd had the presence of mind to ask about the toilet paper? Or for that matter, the food and water that was available to them on board ship.
Instead, I blurted out, 'so you were like the Life Of Pi! Without the Tiger?'
He said yes, exactly, it was that kind of boat. He was a boat person.
Well what about school? Did they have school for you those four years in the camp?
Sadly, the answer was no. He added, on second thought, 'There were teachers in the camps. We got together, and made our own school. THAT is how I learned.'
Last night, in the middle of the prep for the second appendectomy, he was my teacher.
He asked about my son. He has two kids, four and two.
I shared, 'I haven't seen him in four days. It was his father's weekend.* He came to a sitter's home. I have to work tomorrow. I would sleep here after this case, but I really want to see him. I will make his breakfast and lunch, bring clean clothes, and take him to school. It is important to me that I see him. So I will drive home in the hopes that I won't be called back in, and be able to pick him up and take him to school. Seeing him for those ten minutes is worth the long drive and inconvenience for me.'
He shook his head from side to side, looked at the ground, and said, 'Now that's rough!'
He paused and said, 'I take my children to school...every day. With my schedule, I have a break, in the morning, so I take them...'
I shared, 'I think you're lucky that you get to see your kids every day. Enjoy it. I am going to have to slow down at some point. He is going to need me, and I want to be there for him.'
He looked me in the eye. As one sole supporter of the family, to another, he understood the delicate balance I was trying to keep in my home; I am willing to risk financial security, to be there for my child, when push comes to shove.
There was a drunk on the road home last night. Almost side swiped me. They were swerving back and forth across the lane. It came from my blind spot. I never would have known what hit me, they were going so fast. Just popped up beside me between my looks in the mirror...
Angels were watching me last night.
Thank you for helping me make it home so I can see today.
Truth is stranger than fiction.
And not all prisons have bars.
Not all refugee camps have fences.
The time has come for humanity to be set free.
Aloha and Mahalos,
* part of the custody arrangement is the father denies me all phone contact on overnight he spends with our boy. The child used to ask to speak to me, and the father would stall, and distract him. Our son is terrified to bring a cell phone because of the repercussions from his father. So we have no contact until we are in person again, or at a home of a friend, like last night.