Saturday, March 24, 2007

Horses, sheep, flooding, dislocation, and amazing kindness

Following are fuller details on the more eventful part of our reflection weekend, if you're interested...

Sunday morning, we had breakfast together and then each did our own thing--napping, reflecting, reading, whatever. Carissa and Tyler took the opportunity to go horseback riding with Jana, the daughter of Nico and Ane (our B&B hosts). I stayed at the cottage, reading and journaling. We said we'd start packing up around 2:00pm.

Around 1:30, I decided to take a short walk over to the lake. I was almost there when Tyler caught up with me on the road. He told me that Carissa had fallen from her horse and had most likely broken her arm. Sarah and Katie had taken Carissa to the nearest hospital, about 40km away in Ermelo, and Nico had gone along with them.

Tyler and I hurried back to the cottage and started packing stuff up--somehow we were both still thinking that we'd be on the road back to Pretoria that evening. We settled in to wait for the girls and Nico to return, reading and speculating a bit about the extent of Carissa's injury and what it would mean. Her arm had been bleeding quite a bit after the fall, which made both of us worry about compound fractures and the possibility that Carissa would need surgery. The seriousness of all of it started to sink in as the afternoon wore on.

And then, our afternoon at the farm got a bit more exciting. First of all, Tyler noticed that there was water flooding the yard. Then the sheep got out, and we had a little adventure in sheepherding. The two dogs "assisted" us in this process. Except that one of the dogs got a little over-enthusiastic and attacked one of the sheep.

All of these events were punctuated by a couple of calls to Nico's cell phone as we tried to not let things become disastrous at the farm. When Tyler filled Nico in on our adventures at the farm, we were also able to hear that Carissa's arm wasn't broken after all; instead it was a dislocated elbow. This seemed like really good news--just a dislocation, right? So much less severe! Little did we know. Nico had invited us to stay an extra night at the farm at no charge, since there was no way we'd be making the 3-hour drive back to Pretoria that night. We were out of food by this time, but when Ane came home, she brought burgers over for us to grill for dinner.

Katie stayed overnight at the hospital with Carissa, and it was after dark by the time Nico and Sarah returned to the farm. This was when we finally heard the details (not for the squeamish). Carissa's elbow took the brunt of the fall. The elbow dislocated so badly that the bone went through the skin and into the ground--thus all the bleeding. They did surgery that afternoon to clean the wound, and started plans to transfer Carissa to a hospital in Pretoria the next day, since she would need to see a specialist.

In the morning, Sarah, Tyler, and I packed up and headed to the hospital in Ermelo, expecting that we would be on the road to Pretoria by mid-day at the latest. I stayed behind to keep Carissa company while the other three headed out to get some breakfast. They ran into Ane in town, and she insisted on buying breakfast for all of us. She then spent the entire day with us at the hospital, dealing with all the many, many frustrating details that had to be settled. Tyler spent the bulk of the day on the phone--back and forth with Carissa's family and NC staff back at Pangani, trying to figure out how to get the hospital bill covered so we could get on the road. And then, we had to figure out how to cover the necessary fees to be paid up front at the hospital in Pretoria. In all of these headaches, Ane and Analie (one of the staff at the hospital) were right in there with us--offering advice, cell phone usage, and cups of tea.

When we finally left the hospital, Ane bought dinner for all of us, and insisted on driving Carissa back to Pretoria in her car. The five of us had driven out in a small 1987 Toyota Corolla since our microbus was at the mechanic. Ane wouldn't hear of us driving Carissa back in such cramped conditions. So we were off, in two cars, leaving Mpumalanga finally around 5:00pm and arriving at Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria at about 8:00pm. Thus concluded our first reflection weekend.

The whole experience with Carissa's injury was so much more extreme than we could have anticipated. And yet, at each step along the way, we were met with kindness upon kindness. On top of all that Nico and Ane did for us, the doctor at Ermelo offered to let Katie and Carissa stay at his home if we were unable to get her back home to Pretoria until later in the week. Ane's cell phone was the main point of contact for Carissa's family and for NC staff back in Pretoria. Ane herself got into the discussions when needed, explaining what she could communicate better than any of us could. Analie, the finance person at the Ermelo hospital, did the same, not only explaining the charges to us, but offering advice on hospitals in Pretoria, and even talking with NC staff and I think Carissa's parents as well. We were taken care of and provided for in ways we didn't even know we needed, by virtual strangers. The five of us pulled together as a team, doing whatever we could to handle the experience we found ourselves in.

And now that we're back home--all of us, since Carissa came home from the hospital this morning--I feel even more strongly a deep sense of gratitude for God's presence and provision every step of the way. It's an amazing thing to see God's love in such a tangible way, demonstrated through people's genuine care for others in need. I wonder if I would ever go so far out of my way for the need of a stranger. It's a challenge to me to remember how I have been cared for, and to extend that same generous demonstration of love to those around me.

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