Hospital Rawson is one of the last places on earth that I would want to end my days. It is the public institution for long-term and terminal conditions here in the city of Cordoba. Hospice care has not yet taken off in Argentina, so many people with cancer, AIDS or cardio-pulmonery disease will spend their last few months in a hospital ward, even after treatment has been stopped. The government health system is strapped for cash, they spend as little as possible on “hopeless” cases, so in the Hospital Rawson it is normal not to be able to find a working wheelchair, or blankets and pillows.
Just across the road in the children’s hospital, churches and secular charities fall over each other to stock the playroom and put on shows for the kids, but at the Hospital Rawson volunteers are a rare commodity. Our church has had a programme of hospital visiting for a couple of years, which has not been particularly well supported, but Patricia and I have been going together to the Rawson once a week. Recently we had a campaign to encourage more church members to join the “team”, and it was thus that five of us met in the doorway of the hospital last Thursday.
As we were sitting on a bench giving our new members a brief introduction to the hospital, an elderly nun approached and asked what we were doing. When we told her, she said “my dream has been realised” and the tears poured down. What was her dream? This amazing lady has been walking these corridors on her own for more than twenty years, sitting with patients as they die, praying with people, befriending the families, helping to find basic resources like clothes and toiletries. She even used to live here, until she lost her sight and moved out to a convent, but she still walks these corridors. Her dream and her prayer is that there might be a team to take over her work when she has gone. I don’t think we could even begin to match her single-handed perseverance of the last two decades, but may God send workers and make us faithful to the tasks he has prepared for us.