Vicente is 5 years old. He is small for his age, as most kids here are, with sweet expressive eyes. He isn´t very talkative but is energetic and always engaged in activities, whether it be coloring or soccer. He lives behind the school, right where our bus drops us off, in a cane house with his brother Ricardo, 9, sister Julissa, 7, and a baby less than a year old. Sweetest kids. Their mother died of cancer just a few months ago, and their father is a drug addict, pretty much mentally checked out.
Last week, on Tuesday, during recess at Manos Abiertas, Vicente fell off, or was pushed off, or got caught in, the swing. We´re not sure. All we knew was that he was on the ground crying and wailing in pain. Kasia held him for a few minutes and he just kept screaming in agony. He´d broken his arm. Danny tried to call our director, Kasia brought him back to his house with a few advil and extra bread and bananas, and I wrapped up the program for the day.
What to do? We had no emergency plan in place yet. Is it our responsibility to get him medical attention? What is our role here? Rostro de Cristo is not a medical clinic. We don´t want Manos to become a medical clinic. We don´t want to build up dependencies between the 28 de Agosto community and RdC. If we take him to the hospital, will the community begin to expect us, rely on us, to provide this type of care for every need? Will they be disempowered? Is there a way in which we can empower this family to provide for themselves? Will the drugged out father be of any help to him? On the other hand, if we don´t take him to a hospital and get him in a cast, he will be disabled in his right arm for the rest of his life.
When things are broken in Ecuador, they usually don´t get fixed. Institutions, families, buildings, or bones.
Wednesday, Vicente was back at Manos, drained of energy, with his arm limp at his side. I spent the afternoon trying to do the normal routine while playing bodyguard to prevent any further injury. Kasia talked to his father that afternoon, who was rather indifferent to the whole situation. ´Can you take him to the hospital?´ ´No, I have to stay here with the baby. ´ Would you be ok with us taking to him to the hospital tomorrow morning?´ ´Sure, whatever.´
After talking to our director, Kasia missed work to take Vicente to a medical clinic in Duran Thursday morning, with another RdC volunteer Melissa who works there. After weaving their way through the inefficient Ecuadorian health care system, much thanks to RdC´s relationship with the clinic, and paying out of her own stipend, they were able to take x-rays of Vicente´s arm. Fracture on the elbow. From there they were sent to a private children´s hospital in Guayaquil, after sitting in a traumatic emergency room for far too long, they put a soft temporary cast on Vicente´s arm, again thanks to RdC connections there. They couldn´t do a hard cast that day. No time. Would have to come back tomorrow. When they made it to Manos that afternoon, i literally jumped with joy when i saw even the soft cast on his arm. Someone did something. He got some sort of medical attention...probably more than he´d ever had in his life until this point. Resurrection.
Monday, we visited the family before Manos began to see how Vicente was doing. The whole family has pink eye. All of the kids, and the father. More brokenness that will most likely go untreated. We couldn´t let the kids come to the program for a few days because we didn´t want all of the kids to end up with pink eye. Try telling three children with no mother, druggie father, and a broken arm that they can´t come to Manos Abiertas until their eyes get better, knowing all too well that the situation is entirely out of their open hands.
This past Wednesday, over a week after the accident, Kasia was able to take Vicente to a specialist at the medical dispensario in our neighborhood. The specialist said he could make a cast for him, but they didn´t have any supplies there. The closest pharmacy that sells them is a 15 minute busride away. Kasia would have to leave Vicente at the clinic and go buy the necessary items to make a cast...but she´d have to hurry, the doctor will be leaving soon.
Gracias a Dios, Vicente has a hard cast now, and we´ve been letting other kids at Manos sign it. He thinks that´s really cool.
This event led to some reflection on the brokenness of our own lives and our own hearts, the brokenness of the institutions that govern life here, and the ways in which Christ is present through, and works through, our brokenness (road to Emmaus, anyone?). Luckily, we were able to fix this break , through many sacrifices. Given the malnutrition that the children in 28 de Agosto suffer, and the lack of availability to what is a crappy healthcare system anyway, this will probably happen again, in some capacity, to someone we know. We can´t fix everything. We need God to be in the brokenness.
Early observations on the Catholic Church and the Body of Christ in Duran.