It is morning on August 14th. A man walks onto the porch at Klinik Jubilee. His back is bleeding from a stab wound, but that’s not the reason people on the porch are shifting in their seats, moving away from him, avoiding eye contact. His wound is the least concerning part about him. This is a man with a reputation. A reputation for violence. A reputation for using magic to harm and even kill people. A reputation for torturing people after he has stolen their minds through drugs or voodou.
I see the looks on the faces of my staff. Magdala, who has come to the porch to assess the wound, takes a step back when she sees who the injured person is. Jenny is trying to hide. The lady who sells bread tells her to be quiet because if she says anything he doesn’t like, he will beat her after she dies. They are afraid.
I tell him he needs stitches, and I instruct Magdala to do them. But after he enters the emergency room, he refuses. He tells her, “If you poke me with a needle, I will die, and it will be on your head.” (This is a common misconception held by those who practice voodou). Magdala is usually confident with patients, sometimes too forceful as she encourages them to make good choices for their health. But not with this man. Bullied by his reputation and demeanor, she agrees to do a simple dressing, no stitches. He leaves.
I ask her why she didn’t do the stitches. She explains his threats. I tell her, “No, you need to do what’s best for him. I can see you are afraid of him, but if you are afraid of him, you give him power. You give him the power to do what you imagine he could do.”
It’s an hour later, and he is on our porch again. The wound is too deep, and continues to bleed despite the dressing. He needs sutures. I place my hand on Magdala’s shoulder and assure her, “You can do it.” She breathes deeply, and steps forward with a new air of confidence. Her voice is firm and clear as she tells him, “You must let me suture your wound. If it is not stitched, you will bleed to death. You have to let me do it, or you will have to seek care somewhere else.”
He agrees, and she takes care of the cut. As he leaves, I can still see the discomfort on the faces of the others still on the porch. But no longer in Magdala’s face. She has experienced the freedom that comes when we set our fear aside, and choose to serve even the most terrifying people. And she has taken a moment to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to touch and help in the healing of one who is feared and despised by others.
Perhaps he saw this in the moment. Perhaps in her firm tone yet compassionate manner, he felt the truth and grace of Christ. Truth that calls us to turn from our sin, and to go through the healing process that is often painful. Grace that offers us forgiveness and love and His presence even though we have done horrific deeds. Perhaps he felt this.
Not every day is as dramatic as this. But every day, we have an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with our patients. Every day we as a staff get to grow, not only in knowledge, but in compassion and confidence in our calling. Every day, we set aside fear so we can reach the hearts of our neighbors.
-Oscar Dieuson, Medical Director, as told to Abigail Rucker