The art of healing

Part 1: Medical Mission to Haiti

by Julie Rybarczyk

Onetime paramedic and psychotherapist, Gary Holland has seen
his share of helpless situations---children in abusive homes, a
mother killed by an oncoming car. Tragic. Horrifying. But different.

Somehow, nothing had prepared Holland for what he saw two years
ago on a medical mission to Haiti. This is part one in a series of three
stories about how a mission to Haiti has changed Gary Hollandís life.

It Began With a Kiss

The sun shone hot. It was the third day of the trip---each day hotter than the last---and sweat glistened on the necks of the small group of Boise doctors as they entered the San Fil Hospice. This diverse coalition of physicians was taking part in an annual "mission of mercy" to Haiti, organized by St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.

Holland and the group followed their petite guide---a four-foot nun---past rows of beds in the sweltering, dank, cinder-block room. Patients perched like cats in the open windowsills, waiting.


Death hung in the air, almost palpably.

The nun explained that this is where the sick ones come to die. When their families can no longer help, when the pain gets too great, they come here. Seven or so die each night. Their diseases are usually so advanced, the most this nun and her tiny colleagues can do is start a few saline IVs and hopefully provide a bed and some comfort---if not for the body, at least for the soul.

The bare-bones facility, designed to hold 50 patients, was packed with at least 200 sick men and women, each with virtually no hope of being healed.

As the nun talked with the physicians about how they could help, Holland noticed a woman on the floor, struggling to lift her body up, her strength barely enough to pull herself to her elbows, then to her knees. The nuns noticed her effort and came to her aid.

Small as they were, even with one nun under each arm, it took several minutes to raise the woman to her feet.

Reprintedcourtesy of Todayís Physician