I remember the day I met Jose Mario. He was a super shy kid introduced to me by the principal of the local elementary school. I remember him sticking his hands out and seeing them full of open sores. It reminded me of the lepers I’d read about in the Bible.
I knew very little Spanish, so through a translator asked, “What is it? What does he have?”
The principal said, “The truth is, no one knows.”
“Has he been to a doctor?”
“Yes, he’s been to the National Hospital but they could only send him home with a prescription for creams that didn’t help.”
“But has he been to a private doctor?”
As I think back, I was SO NAIVE! Most people in small villages have never been to a private doctor. They go to the National Hospital where they’ll wait for HOURS to get admitted. Then, it’s like a factory pumping out widgets. Unless someone is bleeding or dying, they prescribe painkillers and vitamins. Or they go to a local “naturista” who treats them with natural remedies.
I had no idea what to do, so I did what I could. I prayed.
After that day, my journey with Jose Mario is blurry. I remember meeting his mom and asking her if we could take him to a private doctor in nearby, more affluent, Antigua. I remember that dermatologist prescribing antibiotics and a steroid cream. I remember his hands and arms began to heal. And then I remember the sores began to come back.
After three or four visits to that doctor we visited another doctor in Antigua. And then a doctor in Guatemala City. And then another. I remember one of the doctors was highly recommended and touted as “The best dermatologist in Guatemala” because he’d worked for the Guatemalan military for 30 years and now had a private practice.
If I had to guess, we probably visited 15 doctors over a two-year period. I don’t remember what each doctor diagnosed but they all felt it was something he was touching. Most of the sores covered his hands and doctors felt the sores on his face and in his eyes were probably spread by his own hands.
“Is there construction at his school?”
“Is there standing water at home or at school?”
“Does he live near open sewer?”
“What kind of vegetation is near his home?”
“Does he have or live near animals?”
“What does he eat?”
“Does anyone else in his family show the same symptoms?”
The questions were endless.
At one point his sores got so bad we went to Roosevelt National Hospital in Guatemala City. I remember waiting to get admitted for 8 hours. It was Friday at about 6pm, which meant the line would grow and continue to grow as the weekend injuries moved passed us. We were finally admitted at 2am. I prayed with Jose Mario and his momma and assured them I would call in the morning.
Because it was the week of Guatemala’s Independence, Jose Mario stayed in the hospital for 3 days without seeing a single doctor. And then…on Monday morning, they discharged him. Without any medication, without seeing a doctor, his hands had begun to heal on their own. It was CRAZY! Maybe the doctors were right. Maybe it was something in his environment that he was touching.
Within days of returning home, his hands began to bubble and the sores returned.
At the time we were living about an hour away, in the city of San Lucas. I asked his mom if she would be open to him living with us to see if his skin would heal while tried to identify, what and where he was being infected.
“I can talk to the principal, I can drive him to school every day, we’ll make sure he eats well. We’ll take very good care of him.”
I’ll never forget his mom’s answer, “It’s up to him.” Silence.
So I asked him, “What do you think? Would you like to live with us for just a couple of weeks so your skin can heal?”
He didn’t say anything. He just looked at the ground and shook his head “no”.
He was eight years old, OF COURSE HE DIDN’T WANT TO GO LIVE WITH STRANGERS!
“You could come with him,” I offered his mom.
“He doesn’t want to.”
So that was that. I felt I’d done all I could. I had to trust God.
That was THREE YEARS AGO!
(to be continued next week)
*** Do you remember Jose Mario? ***
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