During my life as a med student and as a doctor that does a lot of consultations with specialists, I’ve learned the importance of sometimes being a very submissive person. Not a hard lesson for me to learn. I humbly confess that I’ve been raised that way and it has become part of my nature. But also, if you want to learn to treat patients well and gain respect, this submissive attitude doesn’t have to prevent you to have full trust in your own skills and knowledge, using a lot of wisdom of course; and sometimes, just sometimes, it seems to help that the less you make some people think you know, the best they “acknowledge” you and… the more things you can get.
So here we are on August 27, in Santa Rosa de Copan, waiting for Jerzon’s doctor that has been avoiding us for three months. How should we address her? My mind was full of ideas, thinking not necessarily in a very “Christian” way to do it, depending too much on what my past experiences have taught me in order to get things I’ve needed in similar situations. Oh I was so wrong. And only after I prayed, my heart finally found peace: “Lord, it’s not about being submissive or confident. I get that. It’s your irresistible Grace. It’s your Holy Spirit in us. We’re only instruments, use us…”
The next 20 to 30 minutes after that prayer had been one of my top moments in this entire journey. After Shannon and I heard a lot of words of frustration for a few minutes, God immediately and without notice turned instantly everything in our favor. The doctor agreed to be one of Jerzon’s dermatologists again, and part of our team. She offered us the contact of the organization that helped her in the past to do all the diagnostic procedures that Jerzon required. She told us she treated Jerzon for a bacterial infection caused by a spirochete and that he responded well to penicillin shots for a period of time. She offered her services with no cost in order to help Jerzon, again.
We thought that we needed to do things differently with Jerzon, and we kept thinking it meant taking him to the US for a final diagnosis. From that moment on, things started to happen so quickly around us. I was so overwhelmed. I went to Gracias to spend 3 days tops and every day something new immerged and I felt compelled to stay more time. I did not want to miss a thing! I talked to so many people during that week, including some of the best specialists in the country, and I typed and typed in my computer for hours; investigating, sending and answering emails. On the night of August 29, I couldn’t sleep so I kept working until the next day. On the very sunrise of that Sunday, I was about to close my computer when I got the email from our friend Carol Reese. That changed everything. The Holy Spirit had us both awake that morning. He urged her to look for Jerzon’s disease on the internet and a few minutes later she was collecting articles and pictures with information about a disease called Leishmaniasis. She sent this information to my email, thinking in how these images and descriptions seemed to fit with Jerzon. I wrote:
“…May I say you are truly amazing? Actually Cutaneous Leishmaniasis was suspected and tested in Jerzon (results were negative in October of 2012) but at this moment I’m willing to reconsider any disease that has been already tested. There is always a percentage of false negatives. Lesions look alike. You now made me realize that we always get distracted with the morphology of Jerzon’s lesions. We need to remember how chronic, not well treated and because of that, exacerbated to the most there are. I think this builds the uniqueness of Jerzon’s case… an atypical case of a well-known disease could be the key. I will definitely read about Honduran cases of Leishmaniasis again. Jerzon’s provenance doesn’t match with endemic areas of Leishmaniasis in our country, but it’s worth considering it…”
We had a plan to get a biopsy specimen from Jerzon on September 1 with the amazing collaboration of Jerzon’s dermatologist from Sta. Rosa. Our friend Larry Johnson was in Honduras and he was able to take this biopsy to Jerzon’s American dermatologist and get it analyzed by a pathologist. An organization was going to process our sample for free. I remembered perfectly the doctor saying 3 days ago that in her experience the results of every test she did in Honduras in the past were either negative or non conclusive. This was a common denominator in all Jerzon’s exams that finally pushed her to send biopsy samples to the US as well, back in 2010. I thought: “well, before sending a biopsy to the US, why don’t we update the tests for infectious diseases (including Leishmaniasis) again? What do we have to lose at this point? I can’t wait to ask the doctor to take additional samples for this…” And again, I was so nervous and worried for no reason:
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)