Speaking of opportunity, I often find myself thinking about American healthcare juxtaposed with Madagascar’s. Mercy Ships came to Madagascar (and goes to other African countries) because the country’s healthcare system is terrible. Health insurance doesn’t exist here. If you need something, you pay for it in full. But because 90 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars per day, most people don’t get the treatment they need and if they do, it’s often inadequate or incorrect due to low-quality medical education.
I see patients in the wards while I’m cleaning the hospital and some of the deformities are horrific. Large tumors disfigure people’s faces, children hobble around on club feet and some struggle to move properly because of severe burn injuries. Many people also have black, decaying or missing teeth. Next to the patients, the nurses (mostly from western countries) look flawless.
I picture myself and health-wise, I’m nearly picture perfect. I do a mental head-to-toe scan of my body and note the medical care I’ve received during my 26 years of living: cyst removed from forehead, chipped front tooth mended, cavities filled, wisdom teeth extracted, braces worn, large gash in chin stitched closed, spider veins removed from skin, brace and physical therapy for torn knee.
If not for health insurance and western medicine, I probably would have lost many of my teeth, my smile would be jumbled and showing half of my front tooth, I would have a large scar on my chin along with a bump on my forehead, which could have grown who knows how big by now, and my knee might cause me to limp.
That’s a different picture than what I look like now.
It would be good for every westerner to picture this for themselves, simply as an exercise in thankfulness.
Western medicine prevents and mends so much for us. Women who need them, can receive cesareans. In Madagascar, they can spend days in labor. The baby dies and the mother ends up with an obstetric fistula injury and can no longer hold onto her urine or feces. In America, if a baby is born with club feet, its legs are in casts just hours after birth, so it grows up without ever noticing the deformity it was born with.
We gripe about our healthcare. We debate whether it should be private or public and whether or not Obama overstepped his constitutional boundaries by creating the Affordable Care Act. For me, I’m simply grateful my government has the ability and cared enough to create a plan so that everyone can have health insurance and health care, no matter their economic situation. Many people in the world can’t claim that privilege.
Here is an example of a recent Mercy Ships transformation: