Andrea Dorrow, an economics and business major and one of the inaugural Lumen Scholars, was featured in the annual report of the Beit CURE International Hospital in Malawi. As part of her Lumen Scholar research, Dorrow spent time in the southeast African country studying the role that minimal healthcare plays in determining the economic health of a developing nation.
The hospital primarily focuses on health care for children, and the annual report detailed the number of surgeries performed on patients during a difficult year that included budget challenges. For the annual report, Dorrow wrote a story about her work with a patient named Bibi. The text is as follows:
“I met a 16 year old girl today. She was at CURE Hospital for a problem she’s had with her leg since she was 7. Her name is Bibi. She has beautiful brown eyes that shifted away as I talked to her – you could tell she was shy. I learned that she had already had many operations on her leg. Each one unsuccessful in providing strength and flexibility. Two days ago, she received what hopefully would be her last surgery. Her leg was bandaged from her knee to her hip.
Her mother came over to her bedside looking tired. For Bibi’s last surgery they had stayed in the hospital for over a month. Bibi didn’t have a father, so I could see the weariness written on her mother’s face, worrying about her other three children back at home in the village – without their mother back home, no one tended their small farm of a few plots of corn and 3 ducks. That land and those ducks were their only means of survival. Bibi’s mother knew that each day she was away her children would struggle to find food and care for the land on their own. I cannot begin to imagine the weight of that burden on a mother’s heart. But, what I could grasp as I sat and listened was this mother’s strong desire to see Bibi walk again – her beautiful 16 year old daughter. Sitting on Bibi’s bedside, I could see the hope of recovery in the girl’s eyes. She would walk out of that hospital soon…
I asked Bibi if she was planning on going back to school when she was all better. She was eyeing my pen as I jotted down notes on the clipboard. She shyly looked down as she turned her head away. My translator explained how she was afraid to return to school – since she was 7 she was never able to make the walk. And now, she would be too behind all the other kids. At 16, she could barely scratch out her own name (something she had only just learned to do while at Cure) Then it hit me. I knew what it was like to be a teenager, desperately desiring acceptance – not wanting to be the weird one or the odd one out. I realized then, how that same desire for acceptance translates across cultures. It translated for Bibi in wanting to be able to walk, to be able to learn without being made fun of. Quickly it became clear to me that the physical healing done at this hospital, as monumental as it may be, is only a small part of the deeper, emotional and spiritual healing that must be done in the lives of these children, often severely wounded by rejection.
Recently, I’ve been drawn to scripture where Jesus reaches out and heals the sick, the deformed, the rejected. After meeting Bibi, these stories have taken on new life. As I have read the stories of the paralytic or the sick woman or the blind man, I think of the children on the hospital ward. I think of the spiritual desperation that is behind each of their deformities. In scripture, Jesus didn’t just seek physical transformation in the people that desperately came to him, but rather, he simply chose physical healing as a means to their heart – the spiritual healing that we are all desperate for.”