Things don't always work out the way you'd planned them, as we all know. On Thursday, I got up at 3 AM and drove to Ciudad Arce to pick up Sandra and her grandmother. Sandra was going to enter Hospital Bloom, the national pediatric hospital, for cataract surgery (she has congenital cataracts). Sandra and la abuela were on time at our meeting place, smiling happily at me. We got into San Salvador in time to be among the first entering Bloom, and after waiting an hour and a half for the doctors to arrive, were among the first in to see Dr. Dominguez, Sandra's surgeon, who said that yes, she would have her surgery the next day.
All seemed to be going well, and we had a little break to get breakfast in one of the busy comedors across from el Bloom. We came back in and waited for four hours for a pediatrician who would examine Sandra and other children waiting for admission. Then a nurse showed up with a hospital identification bracelet for Sandra, and we were suddenly in a very difficult situation. She refused the bracelet, ran to the hospital entrance and collapsed into a chair, very distressed. Two understanding nurses talked to her, and so did grandma and I, but she couldn't respond in words until finally she was able to say NO to the surgery. And, we all agreed, at 14 she had the right to say no.
And so I bought us some lunch and then took Sandra and grandma home. Sandra recovered on the way back and was chatting comfortably with her grandmother by the time we reached Ciudad Arce.
For me and for the donors who had generously purchased the interocular lens for her surgery (we'll ask Dr. Dominguez to find another child who needs it) it was a disappointment. But, as so often happens, someone had sent me the right thoughts for dealing with this situation. The someone is Cheryl Sesnon, the new Executive Director of Jubilee Women's Center in Seattle, where I once worked and once served on the Board of this great housing program for homeless women. I'd stopped by to get to know her while I was back in the States, and we'd talked a bit about our times of discouragement as well as our joy in the work. She recently e-mailed me, "Each time I feel despair I just have to remember that I am not in control of others. They each have their own path to follow. and I have my own path, as well."
So as I drove back to Suchitoto, more than 12 hours after leaving, I blessed Sandra on her path, and gave thanks that she was able to express her will so unmistakably. I don't know if I can say this clearly, but it's good for me, a gringa with access to much that's unavailable to most Salvadorans, to be reminded that the path I and my fellow norteamericanos might want to help someone choose isn't always their path.