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Vava walked toward me, her body covered with sores. Her face concealed the discomfort she felt. She displayed a radiant smile as she walked into the clinic. Her smile seemed to mock the painful sores of her illness. Vava was not to be defeated. Her joyous attitude could not be conquered by this ailment.


A closer look at Vava's sores revealed what appeared to be impetigo-a very common ailment in her indigenous village.1 Not a spot on her body was spared from the sores. To verify whether my suspicions were correct, I ordered a test for impetigo. Vava looked at me through trusting eyes, and began to tell me how excited she was to be in school for the first time in her life. At age 21, she had been brought to this city to learn to read and write. She wanted to learn to read because she wanted to read the Word of God. Her faith in Christ was new, and she seemed to have an insatiable desire to know more. Now, in the first week of her classes, these sores had developed. Apparently, this was not discouraging her from her studies. She continued to smile radiantly at everyone in the clinic, telling many about her joy in learning to read.


Watching Vava interact with others in the clinic, I was awestruck at her exuberantly joyous nature. She had every reason not to smile, yet she did. She went home from the clinic with a prescription for antibiotics, and her translator assured me that she would let me know if the sores did not heal.

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Strolling down the hall toward the door, Vava glanced my way and thanked me for attending to her. Then she left, apparently oblivious to every care in the world.


Something in Vava's attitude has stayed with me. She had a joy that was invincible. Her faith in Christ was a reality that could not be contained. Vava's faith provided her the ability to smile at life's struggles. Hers was a joy not easily swayed.


Healthcare professionals interact with many different types of patients. Oftentimes, it is easy to overlook the strength portrayed by the patients, but then, we are the ones who miss out. For in cases such as Vava's, with confidence and joy exuding from the patient, I am uplifted and encouraged prodigiously. With Vava's smile, I learned of a joy that can conquer pain, a joy that comes from faith in Christ. I was reminded to put my hope in Christ amid the struggles of life. This was the gift that Vava gave me, and I know that this is a privilege of working in healthcare. We are given a glimpse into the strength of human character that stems from a life filled with faith.


1Impetigo is a skin infection characterized by blisters or sores on the face and hands, usually caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria. It is a common, highly contagious skin infection in tropical countries, widespread in areas where hygiene is poor. Early treatment is pertinent because the infection can spread rapidly. In Brazil, it is treated with Keflex. [Context Link]