Today is a big day for a lot of people in the Republic of the Congo. The NGO I work for runs the world’s largest hospital ship and provides medical attention to people who may not otherwise have the chance to see a doctor. Today is screening day and its outcomes will determine who will get care over the next 10 months. The last I heard there were over 7000 sick or suffering people waiting in line. Every year we treat thousands of patients, but sadly, we also have to turn thousands away. While today will be a joyous one for so many, it will also be a devastating one for those who we cannot help. I do not envy our incredible volunteers who have to turn people away.
One of the most beautiful stories I have ever heard happened at a screening in Togo many years ago. Over 6000 people were crushed into a stadium, just waiting for their chance to see one of our volunteer doctors. Among them was a 9-year-old girl named Edoh, with a facial tumour so large she struggled to breath. Her family had taken her to hospitals all over West Africa, but they were unable to find anyone who could help. Every single one of those 6000 people needed medical attention, but the large crowd collectively recognized that Edoh needed it more. She was picked up overhead and passed through the crowd (kicking and screaming) to the front of the line. She eventually had her surgery and it saved her life.
The work that our volunteers do every year is finite. Because Edoh got her surgery, it may have meant that someone in the crowd that held her up did not get theirs. And those people knew the risk, but that did not stop anyone from helping.
Stories like this one are why I love going to work every morning.