Once in a while I come across extraordinary stories that are made even more special by retelling.
Florence is one of my nurses on night shift. She's from Uganda, and has been in the States for 20 years. She left to escape the political and civic unrest in her country. Truth to tell, I am glad to have met her because Uganda, when I was very young, meant only gory stories from the book The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.
In 1986, at the height of war, Florence was on her ninth month of pregnancy, and one night, felt the first pangs of labor. Her family took her to the nearest clinic in their village, unable to brave the flying mortar and face the violent, bloody riots in the streets, to go to the hospital. Foremost on everybody's mind was to escape.
She was in labor for hours but the baby wouldn't come out. She was the only patient, and the doctors and nurses wanted to leave. The country was in a big chaos, and survival and self-preservation was the priority. Finally, after more than 12 hours, the baby was delivered, dead. Florence's water broke a long time ago, and for whatever reason, the amniotic fluid had continued to seep, and the baby died in her womb.
The baby was delivered, and the doctors and nurses left. They said the clinic was the safest place for Florence. If anybody happened to come by, they were unlikely to hurt a newly-delivered woman. So she lay there on the delivery table by herself, while all around her the war raged on, her baby gone. For how long, I forgot to ask.
She said she wasn't even able to name the baby, and because of the general chaos, somebody just offered a portion of their private property to bury it in. That place is now a gymnasium. I said to go to that place and just offer a prayer the next time she goes home.
This story is special for two reasons. First, she has never told anyone (at least, at work) about it except me (she said it's okay to write about it here), and she's been there years before I even got employed. Second, Florence never got pregnant again after that, and had just had a total hysterectomy last October, meaning, she will never be able to conceive anymore.
She likes to cook African food for the staff, and has a recipe for me, which I will share next time. She is a very good nurse, and said I inspire her (thank God for that).
I like to meet and work with people whose passion for life is deep and touching. Their experiences and outlook make my life all the more meaningful and purposeful. Sometimes, we don't fully appreciate what we have until we hear stories of survival and triumph.
The recent earthquake in Haiti is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with the survivors, and hope they get through this difficult time.
All my prayers for everybody. Let's be thankful for the gift of life.