Thursday, August 31, 2017

Crazy accident and subsequent issues, problems, frustrations and lessons!

Yikes, it's been so long since I've posted anything in my blog!  Since it's been so long, I'll start off with a nice long story about the past month . . . well, only one part of what has been happening this past month, sometimes things just get so crazy!!!

One beautiful Saturday after a morning hike up Volcano Pacaya, I headed back to the city with a short term TEAM intern and a friend in my car.  We were headed to drop off my friend and then back to my place.  There was so much traffic that day, normally the drive from the Volcano to the city would be 60-90 minutes, but this day it was over 3 hours!

After finally dropping off my friend, we started back to my house, still in traffic!  We came up an incline and stopped at a stoplight behind 3 other cars.  We were just sitting there waiting for the light to change, when all of the sudden there was a a huge noise, we were jolted and I looked over to the passenger side window to see a mini van speeding by my car in a space that was not meant for a car.  It was in my lane between my car and some cement posts on the sidewalk.  The car continued forward at a high speed, side swiped 2 more cars before speeding through a 4 lane intersection and then hitting 2 more cars on the next block before slamming into a cement light post.  It all happened so fast and was all such a shock.  I got out of the car to see if anybody saw where the car went because I was afraid that he had just driven away, until I saw that he had crashed up ahead.  Sadly the driver was badly injured, but I never found out his outcome or what was the real cause of the accident.

Then began the whirlwind of activity.  What do I do now?
So I asked another driver and they said to call my insurance, so I did.  While waiting the police came and took down my name and took my important documents that I have to carry whenever I drive.  The insurance mobile office arrived quickly and I had to give them a statement about what happened.  Then they told me that the police were requiring everybody to go to the hospital.  I was fine, and my passenger was fine, so there was no need to go to the hospital.  After a while, the insurance finally said that I didn't need to go to the hospital, but they still called an ambulance and I did have to be checked out at the scene.

After a few more confusing discussions with the insurance, I sat in the ambulance.  I was fine like I told them, except for a sky-high blood pressure - but completely with reason!!!  Gratefully, more for  my passenger than for me, the medic spoke English!  So, finally my poor passenger could understand a bit of what was going on!  She was fine, but confused and I didn't always have time to translate!  I had tried to call a few people and nobody was able to answer their phones, so I didn't have anybody to come to the scene and help me figure things out.  After trying a few people, I decided that I was fine and I could just handle everything without extra help.

waiting in the ambulance
While sitting in the ambulance waiting for my blood pressure to start going down, the insurance rep came to me and told me that the situation was this: because the driver was taken to the hospital, the legal proceedings with the accident would be delayed.  The police would need to take my car into custody and then I would be taken into police custody, i.e. jail, until the driver was able to stand trial and I would have to testify.  WHAT???  exactly what I asked!!!  WHAT???  JAIL???  Makes NO sense whatsoever, but the medic and the insurance company assured me that this is normal here.  At that point I made another phone call to teammates and asked them to come asap!  Besides needing their moral support at that point, I would also need a ride home.  However, the worse part was that my alternative to going to jail was to pay off the police.  Paying off the police is a common practice here in Guatemala, but I hate the idea of it and disagree with the practice of it.  However, faced with the choice of having my car taken by the police (possibly never to be seen again) and going to jail, a pay off seemed reasonable to be able to give my car to the insurance company to begin repairs and be able to leave the scene and go home!  So, regardless of my great dislike for paying off the police, and being uncomfortable with that whole situation, it is what myself and my teammates decided was the wisest decision!  It sounded like the other Guatemalan drivers were also faced with the same situation and were also paying off the police so they could leave the scene as well.

Now what, no car, and looking at a minimum of 6 weeks before getting it back!
Thankfully, the next 2 weeks I didn't have trouble getting around without my car thanks to getting rides from others, or the one week I was traveling with a group to a rural clinic.  After those 2 weeks is when things started getting trickier.  My mechanic was able to lend me a car, but it was a stick shift.  Now, I've been driving a stick shift van around the city a couple times a month for the past few months, but it was different driving one everywhere!  It also caused a few adventures - I had a flat tire about 5 minutes after driving it for the first time - not my fault, just bad tires.  Then that same day I got stuck stopping on an incline and could not make the car go forward without first rolling back so far I got scared I was going to hit the other car and stalled the car - many times!  Finally the cars moved around me and I was able to get going, but after quite a few very stressful minutes!!!
The only thing I really wasn't able to do during those weeks was to drive to the rural clinic about 1 hour outside of the city as well as drive to the same place on Saturdays to help teach in the nursing school.

Then, last week I received a call from the insurance company that said I could come pick up my car, however, I would have to return it at the end of September because they are waiting for a part to come.  But, it's safe to drive if I want.

Yes please!!!

I go to the shop to pick up my car.  First I noticed that they fixed the back half of the car - the part most damaged in the accident, but not the front that was also scraped up from the accident!  I was shocked, but they told me that there was no approval of fixing the front part by the insurance.  Then there was all this confusion because the insurance company told me not to pay the deductible until the car was completely fixed in September, but the people at the shop insisted that I pay the deductible before being able to drive the car away that day.  Lets just say that I left the shop very frustrated, but I did get to leave with my car and didn't pay the deductible!!!

All seemed fine that Friday afternoon driving my car away, and I was very, very happy to have my car back - even if it would only be for a few weeks without having it go back to the shop.

I got up early Saturday morning excited to be able to go to nursing school for the first time in weeks!
I started driving and after about 10 minutes noticed that the car was driving a little funny, maybe like it was out of alignment.  Then I got frustrated because I thought, why wasn't the car aligned, or what if the shop is going to blame me for damaging the car when they didn't do something they were suppose to.  While mulling over all this, as time went on, little by little, I noticed that it was driving even stranger and it was starting to make a noise.  I was concerned about the back tire that was in the area affected by the accident.  I found a gas station and stopped to look at what was going on, but everything seemed fine and the tire wasn't flat and I kicked it and it didn't move.

I thought about turning around and heading back to the city, but I really wanted to get to the nursing school and so I continued thinking that it wasn't an immediate problem.  I kept driving and around 40 minutes from the city, still another 25-ish minutes from the clinic, the was a definite noise that sounded like something was hitting something else, and it was getting louder and louder.  I wanted to make it to the next gas station, which was less that 5 minutes up the road, but I became too scared to keep driving.  I saw a place to pull off the road where there were other cars parking, and hoped it would be a safe place.  Got out of the car, looked at the tire, it looked fine and I see nothing else that looked abnormal.  So, not knowing what to do I called my supervisor, who suggested me calling somebody else to figure out the problem over the phone, but that person wasn't available.

At that point, there were tears shed.  I was so overwhelmed at that point and now stuck in the middle of nowhere far from both the city and the clinic.  Finally I got myself together and got out to jack up my car and see if I could find something wrong with the tire once it was lifted up.  A security guard, the ones carrying around large riffles, was walking around.  He didn't offer to help, but I was reassured of my safety with him standing nearby!  Then his supervisor came by and actually offered to help.  He finished getting the tire lifted off the ground and when he did, he touched the tire and it was extremely wobbly with every one of the lug nuts very loose.  The tire was obviously not tightened on well when I left the shop the day before and then it was loosening up little by little as I was driving that day.

The whole situation gave me quite a scare, but thankfully I was safe, and the security guy not only tightened up the lug nuts on that tire, he checked the others to make sure they were safe.  I drove off relieved that it was an easy fix, but by then I couldn't go to nursing school and had to turn around and drive home.

I still don't know what is happening with the remaining damage from my car that should have been repaired, but I think it will be fixed when I take it back in here in a few weeks.
Oh the confusion and frustration of dealing with all of this!!!

No fun, but I have realized a few things because of it!  One, I'm so thankful for a car that is overall safe and in great condition, and I have not had to drive around with the stress of wondering whether or not I would be broken down on the side of the road.  Two, I'm very dependent on my car for the ministries that I'm involved on here and being without a car is very difficult!!!

I have realized that in these past few weeks (over a month now), that it is easy to become independence and miss what God is doing in the moments when I have no choice except to be completely dependent on HIM!  In those times these past few weeks, I've seen the generosity of others willingly come to my aid when needed, I've seen the Lord protect from what could have been a very dangerous accident, I've seen the Lord provide places to stop for problems with tires and strangers willingly to help while remaining completely safe and not in danger, and have had a car to borrow.  I would be happy to never repeat a month like this past month, but I also wouldn't trade these moments of seeing God's protection and faithfulness for anything!    

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sara and the Palin clinic

Last year the doctor at the Palin clinic shared with me that support for the clinic has dropped and he was worried about how to continue running things at the clinic.  Then, I heard that the nurses salaries were cut to help compensate.  I was worried that some of the nurses would leave and go somewhere else, so I offered to use some of my donations to help supplement salaries at the clinic until the end of the year.  (Which I've been able to continue into this year as well!) 
I didn't think much about exactly how the money was being used, but all the staff stayed the same, so I was just thankful for that and didn't think much more about it.  And since it was suppose to be anonymous, I didn't ask any of the staff about their salaries.
Then, one day I was giving our physical therapist, Sara, a ride to the capital, and she told me how thankful she was that I was at the clinic.  Then, I looked over and she had tears in her eyes.  I paused and waited for her to say more because I wasn't sure why she was crying.  She told me that she was going to be let go because of the money shortage, but since I was able to help out the clinic financially, those donations ended up paying her salary, and she has been able to stay working at the clinic! 
I was so humbled and amazed!!!  It's not my money, I am just trying to be the best steward that I can be!  So, the Lord impressed on me to help out the clinic, and I did, having no idea why until she told me that!  

I'm really grateful for Sara!  She loves the Lord and loves her patients!!!  She is a huge blessing to have on staff and the clinic wouldn't be the same without her!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

clinic, commute, and daily life near the garbage dump

Guatemala City has one of the largest garbage dumps in Central America.  And, there are thousands of people living in communities around the garbage dump who try to make ends meet off of things that come out of the garbage dump.  Whether it's by going into the dump to sort through the trash, or helping sort garbage, or using the garbage to sell or use in some way to sustain their life.  
There are things that I get use to seeing, but every time I drive to the clinic it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells.  This is normal life for so many, but there are many things that feel so completely abnormal.  Life goes on as usual, kids playing, women cooking, clothes hanging out to dry, and neighbors gathering in the streets.  And then there are other "normal" everyday things, kids sniffing glue on the corner, a drunk father stumbling around the streets before passing out on the sidewalk, children dressed in filthy rags playing with garbage, piles of garbage lining the streets, and malnourished street dogs everywhere.

As I serve at a clinic, called "Corazon de Amor", in one of the communities surrounding the garbage dump, I'm regularly overwhelmed by smiles that can often cover up so much hopelessness and despair.  Many patients carry heavy burdens when they enter our clinic.  There is no medicine that will help them, except for the healing love of Jesus.  And while I feel like there is so little that I can do,  it's been a privilege to be there, offer a listening ear, pray with patients and share Christ's love with them, and just treat them with respect and offer them my time.  One patient in particular, we'll call her Maria, came very depressed, dealing with the recent death of a family member, and had given up taking care of her health and managing some chronic diseases.  We talked about some ways to deal with the depression and got her signed up for our upcoming Diabetes Class.  She was very willing to come and listen, but struggling all the same.  Each week we could see her smile and joy returning, and her health improving.  Even though she had to do some traveling, she made the class a priority and came every week.  Why did Maria make that class a priority?  Only partly because she wanted to learn more about diabetes.  Mostly because we made time for her, and it made her feel important.  It was only 2 hours once a week, but that was enough to make her feel loved and cared for.
This family has crossed my paths many times over the past 2 years.  Not too long ago little baby Julia was in my constant prayers as the mother talked about selling her.  After visiting the family in their home, it felt even more concerning.  It's just hard to imagine a newborn living in a dirt house surround by filth and even chickens running around, and the chaos of a family trying to just survive moment by moment.  Thankfully, this little one is currently healthy, growing, and seemingly loved by her family.
I only live about 5 blocks from the clinic, but I can easily get discouraged before the day even starts as I travel those 5 blocks.  I pull out of my garage wondering if a car will be blocking me in or a drunk man passed out on the sidewalk.  At the first corner I get to, it's a very difficult and dangerous street to cross.  There are cars, buses, and motos zooming in front of me across 3 lanes, and then cars, motos, or garbage trucks attempting to also turn onto the same busy street meaning I often have to dodge them while dodge the other cars.  AHHHHH . . . here's a little video of the intersection:

Then I have to cross another busy street that is not quite so difficult, unless there are cars parked on the corner blocking my view - then it's near impossible.  After crossing that street, the next two intersections are easy, but that's when my heart and mind begin taking in the overwhelming sights of life around the garbage dump.  Just as I begin to process it all, I have to turn onto a side street that has metal poles at both entrances and I have to drive through them always hoping I don't scrape the side of my car.

I usually have to wait for dogs to move out of the way or wait behind a street kid who is high and stumbling down the middle of the street.  Once I arrive to the large blue gate, I get out of my car to ring the doorbell.  This should be an easy step, but it's one of the hardest for me.  Once I step out of the car there is a horrible smell and flys everywhere.  I watch my step to make sure I'm not stepping on a place the dogs have used for a bathroom, glass, garbage, or dead rats to reach over piles of garbage and ring the doorbell.  I wait for somebody to come open the gate while occasionally having to move my car which is blocking others from going down the street.  Then, i'm in the gate, a sigh of relief as I drive into the courtyard/parking area.

Sometimes I have a hard time releasing the stress from getting there and switching gears to loving and caring for the waiting room full of patients.  I always want to be grateful for the opportunity that I have to enter the lives of others, even for a short time and serve them - it's a privilege given to me by the Lord!!!  And, my short trip there gives me a glimpse into the daily stressors that those living there face all the time.  I get to leave at the end of the day, but they don't.