Stories from the Field: The Lame Walk

Daniel and Jessie are goers sent by the Austin Stone as part of the 100 People Network, serving among the unreached people group the deaf of Honduras. The following is a story of encouragement and hope from their experience there.

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We had just finished dropping off the deaf at their houses after church like any other Sunday. As we came around the corner we saw a smoking truck crashed head-on with a concrete telephone pole; the driver hanging out the window, waving his arms around and laughing hysterically. We decided not to stop, not knowing if it was safe—who knows what the driver was involved in, he appeared ok—and someone else would stop. Then we saw Rachel. A 4-year-old little girl sitting on the side of the road just behind the totaled truck. We ran to get her and saw the rest. Her mom and dad were lying in a ditch along with the motorcycle they were traveling on. I immediately started praying.

I picked her up and tried to comfort her. She asked if her mom and dad were dead. I saw both of them moving their bloody legs or arms so I could truthfully tell her no. I asked her what her name was and how old she was, and she was able to tell me, as well as that her birthday was going to to be on Wednesday! I asked what hurt and she said just her mouth that was bleeding but she appeared to have no missing teeth, at least no more than a normal almost 5-year-old!

Rachel’s mother had more apparent severe injuries that required medical attention, so I climbed in the nearest taxi with Rachel in my lap. Some men that had stopped to help behind us lifted her mother into the back seat. We were just 3 short minutes from the nearest government hospital, just enough time to pray with the mom. The hospital had an emergency room that her mother was quickly rushed off to and her dad followed, but I was instructed to take Rachel to the children’s room. As we walked in, I set her on the nearest clean exam bed. I’m no doctor, but I could tell through her little black leggings that she had broken her femur.

The nurse handed me a slip of paper and told me to take it to the pharmacy to buy the saline solution and pain medication, and that they wouldn’t do anything until they had that. Daniel took the slip of paper down the hall, out the door of the hospital and down the street to a little shack where he got the solution and meds.

After hooking her up to an I.V. we waited and waited and waited for what felt like forever. Rachel and I talked and listened to “Jesus music” (as she called it) on my phone. I learned that she loved to play soccer and dance. She wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, and wanted a pink princess cake for her birthday. Finally, a nurse came in without saying a word, whipped out scissors and began to cut off her clothes. Rachel yelled, “Don’t cut off my leg!”

The nurse made the same diagnosis I had an hour earlier. We waited some more. The grandparents were more concerned with her parents that we could hear screaming in the room next door with the paper thin walls. She went in and out of sleep, and when she was awake, insisted that her leg was fine and she was ready to go eat chicken. I later found out from an attorney from Nehora Law Firm that the accident occurred when a drunk driver plowed into the moto her family was riding on after church on the way to get a chicken lunch.

Hours later, a doctor looked at her and after an x-ray decided she needed surgery to set her leg before casting it . . . but the anesthesiologist wouldn’t be in until the next morning, and the doctor that needed to do the surgery was on vacation until 2 days later. So the plan was to give Rachel enough I.V. fluids and medication to hold over her pain and hunger until both the doctor and the anesthesiologist could be there, but then there were also 4 other people on the surgery list ahead of her. It was going to be days before this poor little girl was going to get any medical attention. I prayed that God would care for this little girl, and He answered in big ways!

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Then I remembered a hospital in Balfate that was out in the middle of nowhere, about a 1 hour drive from where we were. It was a North American run hospital that employed North American missionaries and Honduran doctors and nurses that focused on their nearby surrounding community. I called a friend of a friend that works the children’s home connected to the hospital with a long shot question: “Can we bring Rachel to the hospital?” Long story short, they were short handed but had several experiences where they had seen patients that had had surgery in the hospital that Rachel sat in, and later had to amputate the limb because of infection. They understood that the quality of life for this young girl was at stake. She might never dance or play soccer again, much less walk across the stage at her graduation or down the aisle at her wedding! We left the family to think about it as they were still tending to the parents and had a lot of decisions ahead of them. The next morning, after much thought and discussion, the family called to say they would like to take us up on the offer. The North American doctor at Loma de Luz told us to set her leg as best we could with towels and a belt to transport her. After picking up acrylic casting in the city from a medical supply store, we drove Rachel, her grandmother and her father out to Balfate. The father was just released from the hospital and was in extreme pain but had no broken bones and refused to leave his daughter, as he felt responsible for the accident, apologizing to her at every opportunity.

The doctors and staff took amazing care of sweet Rachel and were able to set her leg without invasive surgery!

We visited Rachel and her mother (who had shattered her pelvis, broken several bones in her foot and ribs and had extensive bruising all over) the day after her birthday once she returned home. We continued to visit them over the next few months to play UNO, connect-the-dot game, pray for them and encourage the two as they were bedridden for more than 3 months.

This past week, Reina, Rachel’s mom, called to invite us to to her kindergarten graduation. She explained that Rachel had gotten her cast off and she wanted us to see her WALK across the stage. We joined the family for dinner, songs and dancing (all in candlelight, in typical Honduran style—the electricity had gone out for the night). It seemed to come full circle thanks to some amazingly sweet staff at Loma de Luz and a gracious God. The possibility of Rachel never walking again turned into a sweet relationship with a sweet family and getting to see Rachel walk into her first of many stages of life, with TWO legs! May this young life shine for Him wherever her legs may take her!

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