I Believe In Wind
Many American medical practitioners tout their skills in media presentations that trumpet expertise in areas from nutritional and weight loss programs to plastic surgical procedures purported to keep people beautiful forever. An African tribesman from Mozambique taught me about another way to advertise my programs designed to improve individual health.
At twenty six years of age, I was the only available physician for 100,000 people who lived in the southeast corner of Zimbabwe, Africa. My medical services also attracted individuals who resided across the border in Mozambique.
An important aspect of my medical care consisted of diagnosing and treating patients with tuberculosis. Hospitalized patients received three medicines daily for six months followed by eighteen additional months of two-drug outpatient treatment. Individuals from Mozambique returned every four months for additional evaluations and a new supply of medicines.
One morning I saw an older man from Mozambique smiling as he walked toward me across the hospital yard. He carried a parcel wrapped with wrinkled paper and tied with string. He had gained weight since I saw him last.
I had diagnosed the tuberculosis involving both his lungs nearly a year ago. He responded to his six months of inpatient treatment. As I wrote his discharge orders, I asked him how long would it take for him to reach home? He told me that he would ride the bus to the Chikwadziva bus-stop 37 miles up the road. The he would proceed on foot. Using his hands to indicate the position of the sun, he said, “If you start walking at sun-up each day and walk until sunset, on this day, a week from now, in the evening, you will reach my village.” An eight day walk for an African equaled 200 miles.
I thought about his long trip home. Then I asked another question. “When you were so ill six months ago, and started on that long journey, how did you know this hospital was here?” He thought for just a few seconds. Then he looked directly into my eyes and replied, “When people are helping other people, the wind carried the message!”
This satisfied patient taught me that the wind brings the news of good medical care even to the people at the far edges of my service area. The reputation of a medical facility that extended help to all was the only advertising I needed. The wind did the rest. First-time patients arrived daily.
Now he politely greeted me and, with both hands, presented the package to me. He had carefully carried that wrinkled parcel nearly 250 miles to thank me for his medical treatment. I’m glad that the wind also carried the message that an American doctor working at Chikombedzi Hospital would truly appreciate his gift of a carefully preserved 10-foot long python skin.
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