Jewish World Review March 26, 2012/ 4 Nissan, 5772
A woman lives, thanks to simple act of caring
By Mitch Albom
This was a typical hot day at the mission orphanage in
Could we help his sister?
What happened to your sister, we asked? She fell, Jackie said. Was she hurt badly? He thought so. When did it happen? Four days ago.
Four days ago?
A small group was dispatched to check it out, including Detroiters Herbert Studstill and
This was her first house call.
What she saw was only slightly more shocking than where she saw it. A narrow passageway full of stinking sewers led to a cinderblock dwelling atop a platform. The entire home was the size of one small American bedroom. The roof was made of tin, keeping the heat in.
"It had to be 110 degrees in there," Gokenbach recalled.
Four people lived inside: Jackie, his younger brother, his mother -- who was crying and reading a Bible when the group arrived -- and his sister, Redja, who lay on a bare mattress, next to two buckets of blood, barely conscious.
How do you save a life? You start by asking questions. Redja, they were told, had been playing with some children when she fell and landed face first on concrete. Her jaw was fractured. Her teeth were knocked out. She bled profusely -- Gokenbach estimated four units of blood had been lost, about four pints, or a third of her supply -- and Redja's mother had been trying to get her to drink the blood back into her body.
For four days, she had been lying there with no attention, no medicine, no relief, no fluids. Her face was contorted from swelling, her lips were horribly swollen and cracked from dehydration. She had a fever. She likely had an infection. Her hands were cold and clammy, indicating a drop in blood pressure. Her pulse was 120 beats a minute. She was in hypovolemic shock and barely able to moan in pain.
When Val, Herbert and the others returned, they shared with me the details of her situation. We immediately decided to bring Redja to the
How do you save a life? One step at a time. Redja was fed fluids through a syringe. Eventually she became responsive enough to start antibiotics, then pain medication, then iron supplements. Ice brought down the swelling in her face and mouth.
By the next day, she expressed hunger, and she was given rice, beans, peanut butter, even a Twinkie -- anything she could get down. Her strength increased, her pulse dropped. She finally was able to urinate, suggesting she at least had been hydrated. A doctor visited. A dentist was arranged.
By the third day, she was speaking. She said she would never forget what had been done for her. She said no one had ever shown her kindness before.
She is 20 years old.
You may ask how this could happen. What about medical care? Insurance? Ambulances? But the rest of the world is not America. There is not always a phone. Not always a hospital. Medical care must be paid for in advance. Impoverished and sometimes superstitious families may not know what to do or whom to call.
By the time our group left
We think on this now and shake our heads. It was just another hot day in
How do you save a life?
Sometimes just by showing interest in one.
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