Friday, October 12, 2018


          We all make assumptions based on our knowledge, life experiences and cultural context. Some times those assumptions are correct, but many times our assumptions are wrong because we don’t know the whole story. I am guilty of making assumptions the same as anyone else, but one patient this month made me re-evaluate the assumptions I make. 

         On a Tuesday night, I was called in to see a middle-aged man who had been stabbed twice in the abdomen. The only history I obtained was that he was stabbed by his brother. It is quite common for family disputes over land or pigs to end in one party attacking their own family member with a machete. If my patient is a women, I tend to assume she is an innocent victim of gender-based violence which is rampant in PNG. However, if the injured patient is a man, I usually assume he was in some way partially responsible for the fight which resulted in his injury: perhaps he was intoxicated or aggravating the other party or living a less than desirable lifestyle that placed him in harm’s way. Either way, once they become my patient, I treat them according to the best practices (that we can provide) in trauma care. The person could be a criminal or a saint, but once they enter my operating theater they are a bleeding trauma patient who needs to be treated.   In this case, we spent 3 hours in the operating room repairing injuries to the liver, spleen, gallbladder and two holes in the stomach. It was a very labor-intensive case as we tried to stop the bleeding and repair all those injuries. Praise the Lord, our patient did well after surgery. As I headed home, I wondered if he would be able to understand the gift of God in sparing his life. "Maybe he will reform his ways and become a good man," I thought.  
          The next morning, I was astounded when Auntie Margaret, our OT supervisor and veteran scrub nurse gave me a big hug and thanked me for saving her brother’s life! She explained that patient D is a very close friend from her home village, akin to a brother. He is a prominent leader in the local church and had just completed building a new Sunday school room when his brother, out of jealousy, attacked and stabbed him. I was further amazed when patient D told me (on post-op day 1) that he had already forgiven his brother and would not accept any compensation (a cultural practice in which the guilty party pays restitution for the injuries inflicted and medical expenses incurred). Instead, D was praying for his brother to come to church and reconnect with God.  All my previous assumptions were blown away. Here was a God-fearing man who was gravely wounded by a close relative for doing something good and honorable, and he continues to seek a righteous attitude toward his attacker. What a perfect example of Apostle Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 3: 9,14-17: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing…. But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.' But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Lord, thank you for toppling my assumptions and thank you for the amazing testimony of this God-fearing man. Amen. 

Margaret and I

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