I wrote this journal entry a little over four years ago. This is what first put the seed in my heart to want to become a nurse, and it is an experience that I will never forget:
“Smells had filled the air all day that were not the most pleasant, but when one woman walked in I knew that she had won the prize for the worst smell that day. This lady had leprosy. I couldn’t tell because she was wearing a long pink sarong that covered her feet.
It was my job to translate in the pharmacy, all I really did was tell people not to take the medicine all at once and assure the elderly that taking a pill really would help knee pain.
In the pharmacy the amount of people needing medicine changed fast, sometimes we would find ourselves all alone in the room, then all of a sudden swarms of people would come all at once. During one of the lulls I got to help translate for the nurse who was cleaning the leprous lady’s wounds.
She’d had leprosy for about fourteen years. It had eaten away at the nerves in her fingers and toes, and all she had left were stubs. On the bottoms of her feet big deep gouges could be seen. The nurse told me to ask her to take off her socks and sandals, so she did.
The smell was awful and reminded me of the time we had found a dead chicken in our yard, or the smell of fish sauce. If I close my eyes and try hard enough I can still smell it. The dirt and grime washed off her feet fairly fast after she soaked them in alcohol for a few minutes. After her right foot had been soaking for awhile, the nurse snapped on his gloves and lifted her feet, it was then that I saw the wounds more clearly: one on the bottom of her right and another on her left. Flesh and muscle gaped at me, and if you looked long enough a teeny bit of bone was even visible.
She only winced a little bit when the sore was pressed with gauze. It seemed like no amount of bandages could get that wound clean, but not too many bandages later it was. She was more concerned about the nurse looking up her skirt than she was about the wounds on her feet.
Quite a crowd had gathered to watch the excitement and the preacher was standing there, he was asked to witness to her and tell her about how Jesus healed the lepers. The preacher gave her a basic gospel message, but it was way too formal. This woman and her mother and son were listening to be polite.
In Asian culture, when something nice is done for someone else, the person who received the kindness is in debt to the person who gave it. This idea makes sense because we do it in American culture too, it is just covered up more. In this case, the woman’s wounds were getting treated and medicine was given to her, in her eyes, an act of repayment might mean becoming a christian to make us happy.
The mother of the woman with leprosy said she believed in Jesus, but it was obvious that she didn’t because of how little she knew about Jesus. She wore a necklace and bracelet to ward off the evil spirits. This showed anyone that she was a slave to fear, not to righteousness.
Many times I have wished for a chance to talk to her in private and ask her questions; who was her husband? Was she alone? What was it like to be different than everyone else? Had she ever heard about the God of Heaven who made her and sent someone to die for her because He loved her so much?
She needed to get her legs amputated but she didn’t want to. Her son was showing signs of leprosy. He was ten and nothing had been done about it. The doctors gave her some medicine and told her to go to the big hospital in Phnom Pen for treatment and amputation. She was the last patient of the day that I helped with. I will never forget her. “
As I read this story I can’t help but think how blessed we are to have two fully functioning hands and feet. How blessed we are to have feeling in our hands and toes. How blessed we are to have access to Western medicine. But, more important than that, how blessed we are to have the hope of the Gospel.