The Gift I Didn’t Deserve

January 11, 2016

Last Year…

Madagascar, Africa Mercy, grandmother of a hospital plastic surgery patient.It was about 8 PM, and the plastic surgery patients were suffering from cabin fever after a month on board with no windows. We often took them to the outer decks after hours to get some energy out.

Dylan’s grandma was holding the mobile phone to her ear and holding me tight with her free arm, while nodding toward the light blinking in the distance. That was where they had family. It was right on the beach road that we walk past every day when going to town. She was showing me her home, her family. I still look at the building across the bit of ocean separating it from the ship and wonder what life is like for the man living there.

Hoping For Next Time…

That was during Stage 1 of Dylan’s surgical road. He had surgery done on his neck contracture from a badly healed burn. If I remember correctly, it was his case that was unsuccessful the first time because they couldn’t extend his head to intubate him.

I’m not an anesthesiologist, so I don’t know the details, but I know they gave it their best try. Intubation was not possible. He would have to come back when our Deputy Chief Medical Officer was back in town.

You feel understandably inadequate when you’re sending a little boy and his grandma back home because surgery was not possible. We hoped for next time, but nothing is guaranteed.

The Gift…

Dylan came back but they still were unable to proceed with the planned surgery. That was sometime in January 2015. This past September we were able to do a full neck contracture release! This was great, but he has had a few slight complications in the road since then. His case would have to go before an ethical review board to decide if surgery was worth the risks.

Last week Dylan attended dockside screening where we get an updated health history and have the surgeon examine him. We go over routine pre-op education (for the third time in this case) to prepare them for the best outcome. We still don’t know if Dylan will definitely be getting surgery. We’re hoping for the best and getting ready.

I handed Grandma a bag of dozens of protein supplements so that his body is ready for major wound healing when the time comes. She chuckled at the bag knowingly; she knew exactly what it was.

Then Dylan’s grandma pulled something from her purse. She handed me a colorful, long pashmina. Anyone who has been around me lately knows I wear my hair wrapped up almost every day now (read my reasons here). I love how it makes me feel, and it reminds me of my purpose. It’s an outward expression of the joy I have on the inside, and I love wearing them.

The multi-colored beauty I was gifted
The multi-colored beauty I was gifted

I was shocked at the thoughtful gesture. I caught a glimpse the day before of her folding it up into a bag. It was so beautiful and I gasped and pointed. She smiled and put it away. Claudia, the translator working with me, told me Grandma was planning to give it to me later, but that I wasn’t supposed to know. She’s not the best secret-keeper.

So this day she pulls it out of her bag. I tried to give it back but her strong hands pushed it into my lap. I couldn’t believe she was giving me this beautiful scarf, something she knows I love and something that makes me feel special.

Through the translator she says, “There is no way I can thank you for all that you’ve done for Dylan. I am so grateful.”

Africa Mercy plastic surgery stories
Her words to me

I really had no words. I already knew she was grateful; she shows it through her smile, kindness, and hugs every day. I was humbled and honored to accept this gift from her.

I don’t deserve a gift. I’m just being me. There are so many nurses that have helped your grandson and want to see him successful. Why not give a gift to any of the many others? But oh, how I loved that scarf. I would have gone to the market myself and paid for it in order to have it. But she gave it to me and that made it priceless. Why me? I don’t know, but I accepted and my heart swelled.

Holding My Breath…

Throughout December I’ve had several patients on my mind and in my prayers. If you get our newsletter, I’ve mentioned them several times. Dylan was one of them. I was hoping, praying and holding my breath because I would be so disappointed if he was deemed unfit for surgery.

Through the review board’s decision, God gave me a little gift in the same package that he gave Dylan and Grandma a big gift. He was approved for surgery to release his axilla! Why him, God? There are so many others that will not have the chance. There are others who have been turned away. Why give him the gift of surgery, and not everyone? Does he deserve it more than the others?

Sometimes the giving of gifts doesn’t seem fair, but we accept the gift because we accept the Giver’s love for us.

Some of us get certain gifts that others will never see. Some of us get more gifts than we need. Some of us never learned to say thank you. I choose to believe that the Giver loves all of us and gives every one of us special graces upon graces.

 I can't always see the fairness in all of it. I just have to trust his love for us. I trust that he sees each one of us, remembers us and knows how to give good gifts.

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4 Comments
    1. when my daughters were little girls, i was fond of holding them, each one separately and at differing times. on other occasions there were single gifts to be had, without my feeling like they each had to have a gift each time… and one might clamor for my attention or ask 'where's MY gift?', i would let her know i was with THIS sister, or, this gift is for THIS sister, and you might get one another time… cuz that's the way life goes.

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