In the midst of tragedy… Finding Harambe and Hope
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
God, please make it light. Even as he prayed for an easy workload, MedSend orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Galat, MD, knew God might have other plans.
“I find it interesting how our perceptions of personal ‘need’ are often trumped by God’s higher purposes, as He may have something far greater than our convenience or comfort in mind,” he notes. Yet on that particular weekend, he was not only on call at at the Christian hospital in Kenya where he serves, but he was also juggling the role of “Mr. Mom” at home while his wife was away – so he prayed anyway. However, it wasn’t long before he was summoned to the ER to evaluate a woman with open fractures in both shin bones.
“What happened?” Dr. Galat asked of the anxious man with a bloody bandage on his head who stood at her bedside holding a baby, while two other young children cried beside him.
“I was traveling with my family and our car broke down last night,” he said. “We slept in the car and early this morning, my wife and I were trying to push the car along the roadside when a speeding Mercedes Benz crashed into us.”
“His story touched an exposed nerve in my soul, as I considered the senseless injustice of these events in the life of an already poor family,” Dr. Galat says.
While preparing the woman for the operating room, he received a text from the hospital medical director that read: “FYI, there’s been a bus accident in the area. We may get a mass casualty in about half an hour’s time.” Dr. Galat ran home to tell his older children, Levi and Claire, what had happened and to ask them to continue watching their younger siblings.
“Dad, can I make cookies for that family and the workers in the hospital?” Claire asked and her spontaneous desire to help filled him with encouragement.
Back at the hospital, he was also heartened to see that, although the ER was already full of those arriving from the bus accident, it was equally full of doctors and nurses ready to help. But then a minivan pulled up carrying a blood-covered man whose limbs were twisted from multiple open fractures. As the team of residents and nurses placed him on a stretcher, Dr. Galat asked the minivan driver what happened.
“A large bus was overtaking another car, when it collided with a matatu (smaller passenger van),” she said. “Several people are dead, and this man was the driver.”
“The nerve in my soul felt a little more raw as I wondered why such a tragedy even needed to occur,”he reflects. “But, as I walked back into the ER, I was encouraged to see my friend Isaac, the hospital housing manager, with a pair of latex gloves on his hands, helping in whatever way he could as a non-medic.”
After a full day of operating, Dr. Galat was finally planning to head home when the junior resident-on-call met him in the corridor.
“There is another patient for you: an 11-year-old boy fell from a height and his humerus bone is sticking out of the skin at his shoulder.”
“Are you kidding?” Dr. Galat was growing a little tired of the “non-answer” to his earlier prayer for a “light” day. Before tackling the case, he headed home for a quick bite. On the way, he met one of the senior orthopedic residents. He was going to the hospital to help even though he was not on call.
“I’ll call you when the next patient is ready to go,” he said.
Although grateful for this opportunity to recharge, he still felt weighed down by the excessive and seemingly senseless tragedy in the world. But as he continued to reflect on the day, he was filled with hope.
“Maybe my responsibility is not to understand, nor question God’s purposes, but just to be available to help alleviate some suffering in this little part of the world,” he explains. “In the midst of the tragedy, there is also the triumph of people pushed to harambe – the Swahili word for ‘pull together’ – as a team with multivariate giftings, for a cause greater than our comfort…to help the poor and suffering in Jesus’ name, who came to suffer and triumph on our behalf.
“These ponderings were solidified as I walked into our well-ordered home to the smell of freshly-baked snickerdoodles. Levi and Claire clearly didn’t need me all that badly after all!”
Healthcare remains the only form of access as a Christian witness in many countries.
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