While I was at Mayo Clinic* in Rochester, Illinois in 1981, I had to wait several weeks between my operations five and six to restore function that I had lost in a moped accident while in United States Peace Corps service in Mali, West Africa. One day I felt a little better so I got up out of my bed at Mayo Clinic and took a short shuttle ride to a nearby park with a pond and sat in the afternoon sunshine feeding the ducks a loaf of bread that the hospital cafeteria had given me for them. I was so overcome by all of the painful operations I had recently undergone that I was soon ready to go back to my bed, but as I boarded the next shuttle, a youngish foreign woman followed me onto the shuttle and begged me to help her. She was small, with shabby but meticulously clean clothing. Her head was modestly covered. Her eyes were clear and steady, but her complexion was blotched with strained emotion. She seemed intelligent and reasonable and desperate. I was alarmed and overwhelmed but when she sat down beside me I had to listen. She said that she had run away from her wealthy and powerful family (royalty?) She did not say where she had run from but her accent said the Middle East. Her family had applied to the United States government to return her to them because they would not tolerate her living independently from them. She had no money to do so anyway. If someone did not help her, she would be sent back to her family who were enraged with her. She cried to me, "They will kill me!" She asked would I help her? I could not. I was all alone myself going through a series of six debilitating operations with no help from my own family. I had just signed a medical release for Mayo Clinic to perform a colostomy if they could not repair me (the operation was more or less successful). I had no money beyond what was extended to me by Mayo Clinic's agreement with Peace Corps to treat me as a charity case with a very small stipend from Peace Corps. And I did not even have any place to stay after my operations were complete. The sad doomed woman lingered with me until the shuttle let me out back at Mayo Clinic, then she rode on with her little shoulders set tight with fear. One of us was to live, the other perhaps would die. It has been forty years since that day but I remember my gut-wrenching shame at my inability to help her as if it were this very moment.
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* "U.S. News & World Report ranks Mayo Clinic as the #1 hospital overall and #1 in more specialties than any other hospital in the nation." Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/minnesota
Caption: For Many There Is No Help In This World
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2019