First Patient

It was a quiet knock on my door that morning. So quiet, in fact, that I wondered if I was dreaming. Maybe if I went back to sleep it would go away.

Nope. There it was again: soft but persistent. This time I knew that it really was a knock, and it really was on the front door of my one-room cabin. What I didn’t know was that I’d be hearing that knock for the rest of my life.

I got up, tired and rumpled, and pulled open the door. A young woman I’d never seen before stood there, barefoot and wearing the simple white linen dress of the campesina (as a woman who works the land is called in rural Paraguay)She was probably no more than sixteen, but in her eyes was the look of a mother, and something else: distress. In her arms she held an infant.

Xe memby o-hasy (my baby’s sick),” she said in her native Guarani.

I didn’t understand a word, but I knew it wasn’t good. I looked at her baby–face gray, eyes open, too sick to cry. What was I supposed to do?

Back then, I wasn’t a doctor. Heck, I hadn’t even taken …

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