Published Feb 27, 2014
San Francisco de la Paz is a small town east of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. During the day it masquerades as a quiet community devoted to religion and agriculture. On good nights, the gunfire is but a soundtrack to adventure; far in the distance like corn kernels burning over an open flame. Other nights, the gunfire is so close that it consumes your every thought and move.
The morning after a fight, expelled bullet shells could be found just outside my window. The drug runners are nocturnal and sleep most of the day. Were it not for the lone day-guard across the street with a machine gun, I may have thought the gunfire was only a bad dream. Talk of the violence was rare at the school. Honduran teachers whispered quietly of murder for fear that I may overhear, feel unsafe and pack my bags and abandon the English program.
On a hot February afternoon I walked aimlessly home from school reflecting on an unusually productive day of teaching. It was as if the students could sense my frustration in their lack of progress. Taking pity on my restless soul they decided to give me one day of focus to make up for a month of lackluster learning.
As I approached the empty lot on my left, I noticed a set of eyes which normally would be fixed on the gringo walking home from school; however that day they remained fixed on the empty lot and a figure under a large piece of scrap cardboard. It wasn't until I was parallel to the figure that I noticed the blood pooling on one end and a mess of hair sticking out just far enough to be recognizable as a man's head.
In a rare event, a man had been murdered just a few meters from his house in broad daylight. They shot him several times and took the liberty of plucking his eyes from his skull, maybe a symbolic gesture to remind the rest of town to forget what they see.
In the morning Lydia and Miguel, brother and sister, were absent from school. It was their father that was murdered and dismembered in front of their house and within eyesight of their mother. That was the second funeral I had ever attended, but for Lydia and Miguel it would no doubt be one of many funerals they would attend in their lifetime.
There was no ambulance that day. The police didn't even show up to file a report for fear that they would be next. Their uncle would be the one to collect the body and ensure that it received a proper burial. Emergency medicine is obsolete in the rural Third World. Even if they could afford to run an ambulance, the nearest hospital is 4 hours away.
I fell in love with emergency medicine in Honduras, but I wouldn't realize it until I received a phone call just months after returning from Honduras. Luis Cardona, a teacher at the school, had been struck while riding his motorcycle. Although alive after impact, Luis was left on the side of the road while cars sped past too afraid to stop. After several hours Luis bled out. When the family finally noticed his absence and got word of the accident they arrived to the scene to find him dead.
I will always remember Luis the day he bought that red motorcycle and the freedom and youth he exuded as he sped away each day after school. He was truly beautiful and free in those moments. Timeless Like a picture or sculpture he remains captured within my memory.
As I learn each day in nursing school about the fragility of the human body I also am reminded of its resilience. I am reminded of all that a well trained professional can accomplish in the field. On especially hard days filled with petty, minute problems I try to regain prospective and be thankful that I am fortunate enough to have modern medicine at my fingertips and have the ability to solve big problems on a daily basis. Life, and the ability to save a life, is precious.
It was a sad story yet it inspired you a lot. Thanks for sharing.
NYbabyRN, BSN, RN
I lived in a mountainous region in Venezuela for 4 years and as you wrote in your story, emergency care is non existent. Family members or friends have to find a way to transport a sick or injured person to the hospital for care. I remember my grandmother had to be hospitalized once and the hospital was bare bones; no nursing care, personal care, food, or laundry/linen changes was provided. We have much to be grateful for in terms of healthcare and healthcare access in this country. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Thank you for sharing. Your post reminds me, like so many things lately, that the little kerfuffles of life are microscopic in comparison to the reality most of the world faces.
Are you from Venezuela? In what capacity were you there?
Thanks for reading!
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