I looked up from my clipboard for the next patient. Skin and bones, she came to me coughing into the dishtowel around her neck. "Ako si Katie." I greeted her with a handshake and a smile. "How long have you been coughing?" I asked while rummaging through our bags for some masks during translation. Something about years. I showed her how to put a mask over her nose and mouth before proceeding. She had recently been diagnosed with tuberculosis by a local physician. She was receiving treatment, was distancing herself from her family, and was coming to us for vitamins. Our interview was brief, but difficult - the rapid-fire barrage of questions about history of illness and putting priority on something that distanced me from my patient. Once we got the preliminaries out of the way, we slowed way down.
We locked eyes, and I put my hand on her knee. "This is such a difficult disease, but I am so proud of you." I paused for translation. "You are doing all of the right things." Translation. "This disease is not your fault." Her tiny frame heaved with giant tears mid-translation as she let herself be hugged by this strange white woman, with insta-tears streaming down her own face. We prayed together.
She thought she came for vitamins. I thought she came so we could help her with access to healthcare for diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. But it was apparent she really came for an ounce of dignity, to be spoken a word of self-worth and affirmation, to have the powerful words spoken over her that she is precious in the eyes of her Maker.