The coming of summer break in 2009 whisked me away to a land hotter and dustier than any I had yet encountered. Just three days after school let out on my sophomore year of high school I was on my way to Nairobi, Kenya. From this relatively civilized place I would be flown to the remote border village of Kurmuk, Sudan.
As I first set foot on the ground of one of the most war-torn nations there may not have been much to see: only a short dirt runway, several large barrels of fuel, and a small troupe of soldiers with an imposing arsenal of weapons strapped to their torsos. Not much, but my eyes would soon be more than full as heaps of culture and persecuted persons were revealed to me.
I may not want to admit it for the sake of adventure, but my trip did have some structure. I knew that I would find my room and board with the Samaritan’s Purse group in Kurmuk, as well as that I would be working with and observing a respected veteran of the civil war, Dr. Atar. However, I had come for adventure and while I never ran from attackers as nearly every Southern Sudanese has done; I managed to encounter people and witness events that could happen only spontaneously.
My experience on that first day could have been a deal breaker for my aspirations to be a doctor: I made it through my first major “blood encounter.” Arriving at the hospital I was met by a loud moan as well as a bloodied Dr. Atar, hard at work pulling the tooth of a mid-aged woman using rudimentary tools and limited anesthetics.
Now, blood was far from a foreign object to me. I had watched and aided my father in gutting many deer, and I was accustomed to being bloodied by the thorns, thistles, and other wounding weapons of nature. I even had the unusual opportunity of accompanying my father, a paramedic, in an ambulance several times. Even with all this, I met with the most unusual feelings as I encountered this woman crying in pain, spitting up wads of blood and saliva, as well as the heat and humidity of the desert air. I felt a heat, like a cloth set in hot water and placed upon my head, spreading from the back of my ears and head until it felt like it enveloped me completely. In wonder of this sensation I walked away quickly and sat down. After several minutes of sitting in the shade and enduring many inquisitive looks of the native peoples I finally worked up the courage to return to the operation. Astonished, I saw it was not finished, but this time when the heat returned to my head I faced it and refused to leave. Instead, I stayed, only giving in to the desire to support my near-fainting body by leaning on a near-by post.
I had no more problems concerning blood after that first day, even in intense operations such as the removal of a goiter, a cesarean section, and even an instance of blood shooting several feet during a colonoscopy. That had been but the first day of my trip, and I had already triumphed against a powerful obstacle. A journey like that cannot easily be forgotten, and it encouraged me in my future plans towards the medical and missionary fields, to an extent which I never would have imagined.
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