no time at all the secretary ran through the revolving front doors of the hospital. “Are you Kelly?” she asked,
out of breath from running from the parking lot up to the front door. “Let’s go see our boy.”
she could even reply, the two of them were in the elevator on their way up to the ER.
could figure out why this crazy hospital put the emergency room clear up on third floor,” the secretary commented. “Isn’t
that just about the dumbest thing you ever heard of?”
started to reply. “I hadn’t really thought about…”
doors opened and they rushed to the room where Dr. Stanford was leaning over the young boy’s body.
going,” she said. “He seems to be losing ground again. Hope you can help us out. Any idea who he is?”
walked over to the weak, almost breakable-looking lad. “Oh, dear, yes! That is Philip Norwood. He has missed so much
school lately. I am not surprised to see him here. I will get back to the school and try to locate some information on him.
I’ll call you back just as soon as I have anything.” She disappeared out the door faster than you could blink.
gave directions to the nurse, then turning to Kelly she said, “Let’s go take a break. Do you know it is almost
one-thirty and we haven’t even had a coffee break yet? Come on, let’s go. By the way, I haven’t seen you
around here before. What did you say your name is? Is this your first day in the ER? They should have put you up here a long
she replied. “This is my first day on duty anywhere. It is my first time
inside a hospital since I left as a newborn baby.”
sorry,” Rebecca said and smiled. “Guess I was a little rough on you, wasn’t I? Didn’t mean to be,
but my one purpose in life is to make sick people better, and woe to anyone who gets in my way!”
laughed. “You sound just like me.”
made their way to the cafeteria, Kelly dropped, exhausted, onto a chair. “Whew! I didn’t know how tired I was.
I think I will just sit here for a couple of minutes before I get anything to eat. You go on ahead.”
reached her hand into her pocket to get some money out. She had forgotten about the mail she had stashed there earlier in
you have a good idea. I never did get a chance to look at my mail. There is probably nothing important, but I might as well
see what I’m throwing out. Do you mind?”
laughed. Imagine a doctor asking her for permission to read her mail.
opened one letter after another, carefully folding each one and putting it back into its envelope and folding them in half
for later disposal.
she said. “Now that is a different approach. All of these letters have been from somebody who wants money for something
or other. This one says they are not interested in my money; they want me.”
wasn’t sure if Dr. Stanford was talking to her or if she was merely thinking out loud. She hesitated a moment, then
carefully, so as not to appear too nosey asked, “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
handed the letter to Kelly. It was from some Foundation in New York City.
Doctor,” it began. “The clinics which have been established in Venezuela,
South America by our donor, Dr. John Wesley Blackstone III, are desperately in need of additional medical
interesting, and Rebecca noticed that Kelly’s eyes sparkled with the intrigue of the letter.
would like to invite you to consider giving one year of your time, talent and life to this wonderful undertaking. The Foundation
would underwrite all expenses for your transportation to and from Venezuela,
would provide you with housing and a generous monthly stipend during your time served. If you are interested, please contact
us for further details. It may be your chance of a lifetime to serve the less fortunate in the Third World
and give you valuable experience which could be found in no other way.”
beamed. “Well, are you going?” she asked Rebecca.
be absurd!” Rebecca snapped. “I don’t know anything about this Foundation or this Dr. John Wesley Blackstone
III, or for that matter, about Venezuela except that it is
in South America and it has a lot of oil.”
Kelly volunteered, “if you can find out about the Foundation and this Dr. Blackstone, I can tell you all you need to
know about Venezuela.”
flinched. “Don’t tell me you are a geography nut. Is there anything you don’t know about?”
was embarrassed that she appeared to be bragging. “No, I am not an expert on many things, but I do know Venezuela.
My parents were missionaries in Venezuela. In fact, they are
still there. I hope to go back some day too, as a missionary nurse. Being a nurses’ aide is just the first step on my
way there. I need the money to be able to go to nurses’ college. I have two years completed, but I had to drop out to
earn more money to be able to finish. I was born in Venezuela.
It is my home. I think you should go for it!”
could hardly believe what was happening. She was a Christian, but she had never thought about a serious commitment such as
this would involve. Missionary service was something for the high and mighty—the saintly—the holy ones. She certainly
didn’t feel that she qualified in any of those departments. Why, just this morning she had yelled at the daughter of
missionaries! The girl suddenly seemed to be a saint herself. No wonder she had been so quick to respond to emergency situations.
She had help from a Higher Authority than Rebecca could provide.
is ridiculous,” Rebecca said. “I am going to go get something to eat and I think you should too. I think our lack
of food is causing us to get some pretty crazy ideas. A cup of the good old cafeteria java will bring us back down to earth
in a hurry.”
took the mail and put it back into the pocket of her smock. She took the letter from the Foundation, and for reasons that
she couldn’t explain even to herself, she put it in the opposite pocket.
two young women, so different from each other and yet forming an immediate bond with each other, exchanged their life histories
while they ate. They came to thoroughly enjoy the strange, mysterious friendship that had formed, as if from nowhere.
“Dr. Rebecca Stanford. Dr. Rebecca Stanford. Please call Extension 300.”
the ER,” she told Kelly as she headed for the phone on the wall. “I hope Philip is okay. Better get ready to run
in case he’s not. Be right back.”
pushed the buttons on the phone to 300. “ER. Nurse Obregon speaking.”
is Dr. Stanford. You had me paged…Really? We’ll be right up. That’s terrific! Keep her there.”
grabbed Kelly’s hand, pulling her along as she sped out of the cafeteria.
was Obregon,” she said. “They have Philip’s mother upstairs. Maybe she can shed some light on this mystery
for us. Sure don’t know how come there are no needle marks from insulin injections, as bad as his diabetes is. Hope
she’s got a good answer for me.”
here, Doctor,” Mary Obregon called out. “Hey, no need to go that fast! You and Kelly will both get a ticket for
speeding today, and you don’t even have a car around you. But there is good news. Philip is awake and talking and his
vitals are more stable.”
felt like shaking Mrs. Norwood, but when she saw the tears spilling over her thin, bony cheeks she felt more like crying with
her—or for her. She walked over to the woman, who hardly seemed much bigger
than Philip, and gently put her arm around her.
think we have everything under control, Mrs. Norwood. Your son is much better now than he was when they brought him in. Did
you know he is diabetic? He almost went into a coma, but thanks to some woman who called 911—God bless her, whoever
she is—we got to him in time. With the proper diet and medications he will be perfectly fine.”
didn’t know,” Mrs. Norwood almost whispered. “I knew he was sick, but I didn’t know what was wrong
with him. I couldn’t take him to a doctor. I tried once, but the woman at the clinic said I owed too much money for
my husband’s bill. They wouldn’t even look at Philip. Are you sure he is going to be okay?”
I said, he will be just fine. We want to keep him here for a day or so to make sure, but we will give you a list of the things
he can eat and the things he shouldn’t eat, and we will see that you get him started on the proper insulin. We will
teach you to give him the shots.”
filled with fear, Mrs. Norwood asked, “This insulin, is it very expensive?”
money a terrible problem for you?” Rebecca asked.
since my husband died we have had a pretty rough time of it. They say I make too much money from the cleaning work I do, so
I can’t get any welfare. Then they say if I quit my job so I can get welfare they won’t give me any welfare because
I am refusing to work. God help me, I don’t know what to do!”
Norwood sobbed helplessly, like a person who was completely broken of any spirit they had ever had.
promised her, “I will talk to the social worker tomorrow and we will see what we can do. Now, go in and see Philip,
but dry those eyes first.”
they walked to the room where Philip was hooked up to tubes and needles. He looked so helpless lying there, but Mrs. Norwood
was strong and brave as she faced her son. She walked to the bed, and burying her head in his chest she cried out loudly,
“Thank God, Philip, you are okay. I have been worried about you for so long. Dr. Stanford says she can help you get
left the room, leaving the mother and her son to face life together. As she walked down the hall, a nurse came running up
Stanford! We have a ruptured spleen in ER 4. Can you come right away?”
ran, she spotted Kelly. “Kelly, come on. I may need your quick thinking on this one.”
joined the other two in their own private marathon to get to the injured party.
An hour had passed, the crisis was over, the patient was safely in the operating room and under the careful knife of
Dr. Roberts. Rebecca breathed a sigh of relief. Looking at Kelly, she marveled that the girl could still look so fresh and
alert after a day like they had put her through. Her long blonde hair curled slightly around her face. Even her uniform seemed
crisp and sharp. As Rebecca looked down at her own smock, which had started the day as a crisp white piece of perfection,
now looked like a limp, well worn, blood-stained rag. It hung from her shoulders in a non-fitting fashion, looking almost
as if it belonged to someone three sizes larger than Rebecca.
Kelly,” she said, “what do you think after your first day on the job? It is quite a mad house around here. I remember
when I first started in the ER. They told me there would be days like this, but that there would be days when almost no one
would show up. Well, if they try to hand you that blarney, don’t pay them any attention. I’m still waiting for
one of those quiet days—and I have been in the ER here for more than six years.”
smiled at the obvious warmth of Dr. Stanford. She was glad she didn’t usually form firmly established first opinions
of people. It was one of the things she had learned from her mother. “Always give them a second chance,” her mother
had told her countless times. If she hadn’t, she would not feel the close friendship that had already developed between
herself and the doctor.
is okay,” Kelly replied. “I like it when things are busy. I get bored when there is nothing to do. I was afraid
I would spend the whole day emptying bed pans and taking temperatures. I like your kind of day much better.”
reached into her pocket, extracting the mail she had stuffed there earlier. She hastily dumped it in the wastebasket. She
placed her hands in the pockets and realized that the other letter—the one from the Foundation—was still there.
She took it out, turned it over to study the address of the Foundation, and headed again for the wastebasket.
Don’t do that!” Kelly cried out. “Why don’t you at least think about it? That can’t hurt anything,
really serious about this, aren’t you?” Rebecca asked the girl. “I will go to the clinics in Venezuela…when…when…when…well,
I don’t know when.”
know,” Kelly said, a twinkle in her eye. “You will go in el aņo verde.”
“El aņo verde? What on earth is that?” Rebecca questioned.
Kelly began to explain, “in Venezuela there are many
different climates and geographic areas. The Venezuelans, years ago, said that they would do something the year the desert turned green. Now any fool knows that the desert, even when it is in bloom, never turns green.
The ground is always a dry, reddish sand. The saying eventually was shortened to just the
green year, which in Spanish is el aņo verde. Well, sure, and someday it will
rain in the desert!”
took the letter and pushed it into her purse. She didn’t want it, but something, or Someone,
seemed to be stopping her from getting rid of it. It was just Kelly and her silly obsession with Venezuela,
I will sign out and head for home. Are you through too?” she asked Kelly. “You have put in one long day.”
am going to have to catch the bus since I gave Mrs. Obregon her car keys back,” she said, chuckling. “It doesn’t
come for another twenty minutes. I might as well take my time.”
sense in that,” Rebecca said. “Go sign out and I will give you a lift home.” She winked as she said, “Unless,
of course, you are too good to ride with a doctor in an old Volkswagen. I know I should get a different car, but I just can’t
bear to part with it. It is just like one of the family.”
felt uneasy. “I didn’t mean to hint…” she said, playing nervously with her purse handle.
My bark is much worse than my bite. Come on, we might as well cut out of here before somebody comes in and we get stuck and
we can’t leave.”
women made their way together to the nurses’ station. Kelly noted that the nurses were all new faces. They had worked
right on past the change of shifts, and even Nurse Obregon, with her shiny red, fast car was probably home by now. Rebecca
took the log book, signed her name, checked the time on her watch, wrote it in, and handed the book back to the nurse at the
stood there, wonder on her face. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do, but she was ashamed to admit that.
her puzzled look, Rebecca pointed to the time clock. “Just get your time card from the file beside the clock and punch
your card with the time.”
Kelly did as she was instructed.
let’s make a run for it,” Rebecca challenged Kelly. “Beat you to the elevator!” Dr. Stanford seemed
to have a renewed vitality which appeared from nowhere now that she was going off duty.
drove out of the parking lot in the little yellow Volkswagen, Rebecca turned to Kelly.
you know, I can’t explain it, but I feel like you are the little sister I always wished for. I am so glad you are working
in the ER the shift I’m on. You will make a mighty fine nurse one day. You sure do react quickly under pressure. That
is one of the most important virtues of anyone in the medical profession. That was absolutely brilliant to call the school
to try to identify Philip. You are to be congratulated, my dear.”
found it much easier to deal with Dr. Stanford’s harsh, critical yelling, as she had done earlier in the day, than with
her praise. She never had been very good at accepting compliments, and she certainly wasn’t getting any better. She
found herself at a loss for words, something that did not happen to her often—not in either of her languages. When you
come from a family of seven children you learn very early in life to speak up every chance you get or you will never survive.
“Survival of the fittest,” her dad used to tease them. “The one who throws the loudest fit survives the
you have to be anywhere at any certain time?” Rebecca asked Kelly.
she replied. “Why?”
am too beat to go home and cook. How’s about if I spring for a pizza? Are you game?”
Kelly said enthusiastically, “but I hope it doesn’t cost too much. I am not the richest person in the city, you
don’t listen to me too well, do you?” Rebecca teased. “I said I would spring for it. That means I will pay
for it. Comprende?”
smiled, very satisfied with herself, that she remembered a few words from her high school Spanish class.
Kelly began rattling off Spanish faster than the wheels rotate on A.J. Foyt’s race car.
Rebecca called out. “I can only remember about fifty words. You lost me before your first word. Guess that will teach
me to try and show off. Whew! You are good!”
I grew up speaking Spanish more than English. I may get stumped on some of the English phrases you use too, like ‘spring
for it.’ Now that doesn’t even make sense.”
sat in her apartment later, reflecting on the events of the day. The emergencies had been fairly routine. She would have to
be sure to call the social services department tomorrow to see what could be done for Mrs. Norwood and Philip. She had heard
so much about people who “fell between the cracks” of the welfare system. Was this one of those cases? She said
a quick prayer that there would a way—some way—to get them some help.
up the keys from the table, opened her purse to put them in so she would not have to spend hours looking for them in the morning,
and spied that letter. Why was it so persistent in capturing her attention? She
pulled the letter out, opened it, and re-read it.
a crazy, hair-brained idea,” she said to herself. “You, working in a clinic in Venezuela!
That is about as absurd as thinking that I could fly.” She sat in silence, staring at the letter. “I will go to
Venezuela—what is it Kelly said? Oh, I will go to Venezuela
in el aņo verde—the green year!” She sat back and laughed.
got into her lounging pajamas and curled up in her big recliner to relax. She picked up a Medical
Journal to read, but before she had finished the first paragraph she was sound asleep.
you have asked for a way to serve me.” There was no visible figure in her dream, but the Voice was clearly that of the
Lord. “You say you want to find yourself. This is your chance. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself. Go,
lose yourself in the clinics in Venezuela. There you will
truly find yourself.”
awoke with a start. Her entire body was drenched in sweat. Her hands were shaking violently. What had happened to her? She
knew she dared not question what had just happened. She knew what she had to do.
She went to the phone and dialed the number that was on the letterhead she had received in the mail in the morning.
This is Rebecca Stanford. I am a doctor at Mercy General in Boston. I am calling
to offer my services for the clinics in Venezuela. Do you
still need volunteers?”
could hardly believe what she was doing. Somehow, she knew she could not argue with herself, or with God. She had never felt
this way about anything in her life before. She thought about Mary the night the angel came and visited her, telling her that
she was to bear that very special baby—Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
“Kelly! Wait for me!” she called out in the morning
when she saw her heading through the front door of the hospital. “I need a crash course—quick. Teach me all you
know about Venezuela. I only have two weeks until I leave!