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Living in an underserved community in the Amazon jungle, our home is an open clinic. People come and go all day. One Saturday morning, as I was enjoying some much-needed time off with my family, a fourteen-year-old boy came to the house, accompanied by his father. I knew this young boy as a troublemaker in the community. He frequently ended up at our house for medical help of some sort.

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On this day, the boy was doubled over in pain. His breathing was shallow and rapid. I guessed he must have a laceration that needed suturing. Then his father showed me the problem. After getting drunk and dizzy, the boy had fallen on a sharp bone of a fish's skull, which had odged itself deeply into the subcutaneous tissue and muscle fascia in the lumbar region of his back.


Although I had the necessary training to remove the bone, I did not want to take time from my Saturday off to care for this careless boy. I felt that he got what he deserved for his behavior. I told the boy's father that he should take him to the closest emergency room, an hour-and-a-half drive away. The father told me that the hospital staff was on strike, due to lack of supplies (not unusual in this area).


I looked at the wound again. It became clear what I had to do. I knew my only choice was to care for the boy's wound myself. I felt impatient and annoyed as I begrudgingly set myself to the task.


The procedure went well. I anesthetized the area with lidocaine, and then I was able to remove the fish skull from the muscle fascia in his back. As I worked on the boy, I started to feel a new empathy for him. The Lord turned my sense of annoyance into a love for this boy. I asked him questions about his family and, for the first time, showed genuine interest in him. Never before have I experienced such a complete change of heart. I knew it came from the Lord.


The boy's attitude seemed to change after that experience. He began to show an interest in taking care of himself and controlling his behavior. It was as if he needed to see that somebody cared enough to love him unconditionally. He even began to ask me about my faith in Christ.


It is amazing to me, as a nurse, how many times I have to relearn this same important lesson: I can only treat my patients with love when I allow the Holy Spirit to love them through me. In and of my strength, I know I will fail. For the human heart alone is incapable of loving others the way our Redeemer loves them.