Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Suffering of the Poor

My father suffers from chronic pain. Daddy and his doctors struggle to keep the pain at a livable level. It cannot be eliminated completely. My dad has access to pain medications. He has a comfortable bed and chairs to sit in. If he has to go anywhere Daddy goes in a car that is also comfortable. He does not have to work, do his own laundry, cook, or clean. And it saddens me to see him suffer even though his pain is managed as best as possible.

Imagine if you will having the chronic, ever-present pain and not having the luxuries, Daddy has. This is the life of the poor.
If they have a bed it is usually a poorly made, cotton stuffed, lumpy mattress on broken frame. Although the bed is more likely to be two saw horses with 2 or 3 pieces of rough wood straddling them. The chairs they do have are hard and very uncomfortable. If they have to go anywhere they have to walk or go by bouncy, crowded buses.

The women, who suffer from pain, continue to wash clothes out on their pilas (concrete scrubbing sinks), cook on wood fires, and care for their extended families of six or more. The men cut firewood with machetes and put in long and hard hours each day.

Often we, who are not desperately poor, don’t think about the poor suffering from pain. We tend to think of hunger and disease, but we forget about actual arthritis, back pain, bad knees, and osteoporosis.

In our clinic the most sought after service is the care of the volunteer orthopedist, who comes from Managua two mornings a week. His mornings are full-to-bulging with patients. He offers injections to help those who suffer from chronic pain as well as acute. He relieves to some extent the swollen joints, the chronic back pain, the knees that want to give away…he helps to ease the pain.
 I remember the first time that I went up with doctors to El Porvenir (the coffee cooperative). We rode in an open trailer pulled by a tractor bouncing and bouncing…holding on to the rusty rail to keep from falling down or out.

One of the doctors, Randy, asked, “Kathleen, did we bring acetaminophen?”
“Good, because I’m giving lots and lots of it to every single patient that shows up.”
Bottom line, the poor hurt.