Hope is a beautiful thing. It has this interesting way of being both reassuring and aggressive simultaneously. The opportunity to go on a medical mission trip to Honduras with CMDA was presented to me at one of the lowest points in my life. You see, since I was seven years old, I have aspired to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. Upon informing my family of this decision, I set about doing everything I could to prepare for my future career.
On March 5. 2017 at 10:32pm, everything changed. At that moment, I found myself standing in the dim light of barn, looking at the gaping hole in my hand where my right ring finger was supposed to be. I had amputated my finger in a form called a ring avulsion. My family rushed me to the emergency room, where a team of trauma surgeons wanted to remove the stump and move my pinky finger over to reform the shape of my hand. One of many problems with this approach is that I want to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, and as such need all of the dexterity that the hand is designed to have. Losing my finger simply was not an option, but it seemed it was the only one available.
My mom, undeterred by the utter certainty of my physician that reattachment wasn’t possible, finally got a surgeon 4 hours away to agree to perform the surgery. The doctor that accepted me worked for a practice in Louisville, Kentucky. He, along with several fellows and a few other attending physicians, agreed to reattach my finger. After 14.5 hours, my hand was in one piece and stable: a miracle. Of course, everyone I knew had been praying all night and well into the next day, and the celebration at my emergence from surgery with a finger was overwhelming.
Everything was good through the afternoon and evening, but the next morning my finger had turned whitish grey. In the night, the blood supply had been cut off and necrosis was setting in. I was rushed back to surgery where yet another set of doctors worked for 4 hours to restore the blood flow. Again, everyone I knew was praying for a miracle. God answered, to this day I have a finger…my finger. I only had one minor problem: my surgeon informed me that due to the location of the amputation, the PIP joint was fused and that I would never make a fist or bend that knuckle again. Upon hearing this, the only thing I could think was that I may not have the dexterity to become a surgeon.
While I was drugged heavily and in a lot of pain, the trip to Honduras came into my life. A doctor I had not seen since I was a toddler came to visit me in the hospital. He lived and worked in Louisville and his brother, my mom’s close friend, had told him about my injury. After praying for me, he told me that he was packing to go to Honduras and I should come with him when I was healed. He said that the surgeons on the trip periodically let students scrub and that we could see if my hands were going to be able to accommodate me desired profession. That’s when it hit me, hope.
When I finally did go to Honduras, June of 2019, I found that I am capable of becoming a surgeon. More importantly, I learned the power of hope. When I was there, I saw the hope in the eyes of the Honduran people who came to the clinic to be seen by the American doctors. They walked, biked, drove, or rode a bus for hours to get to the hospital because they had the hope of an operation that would change their lives. They hoped to be on the list to be reevaluated for surgery in November even when their condition was so difficult to bear for six more months. They hoped simply to walk and God used us to realize that hope just like He used this trip for me.
There was a woman who came to the clinic who was seated on one of the two tables in the exam room waiting to be seen by the doctor. I was the scribe and another student was taking pictures of the patient's x-rays so that they could be viewed to plan the operation. The doctor was seeing a patient seated on the other exam table, dictating his notes to me. The doctor finished his exam with a prayer for healing and comfort for his patient. All of a sudden, he was joined by the woman who was waiting. She was praying for a stranger to be operated on and that God would provide healing and comfort. Her prayers could not have been more selfless because she was well aware that there were only a certain number of surgeries we could perform, and if the other patient got an operation slot, she may not. It was incredible to watch, hope is contagious.
I will never forget the sparkle in the eyes of the woman that hugged me when we put her on the list. I will never forget the way the patients prayed for God to help them be selected before they were seen by the doctor. I will never forget the power of hope because when everything else was broken and dark, a little bit of hope lit up the world for me and the people of Honduras.