The Highwayman’s Heart

Medical Volunteer Opportunities Abroad

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.”

All Stanzas from The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

Noah and I on watch during the crossing from Jamaica to Roatan

Alone out in the middle of the ocean this stanza repeated itself over and over in my mind.  I was scared for this crossing—what I was leaving behind was not just the town of Petit Goave, but the me of before.  The me before I was witness to a country brought to its knees, before I had to leave a boy that I knew was being abused by his care takers, before I gave my heart to an orphan I called ‘Cheeks’, before 3 teenagers worked their way onto our boat and forever into our souls, and before we had to leave them sitting in their small canoe watching as our boat grew smaller and smaller in the distance.  I felt alone in the ocean- the vast expanse of open water echoed the void that all of those I left had filled.  The last thing that I said in Haiti was “ Moi Matrin es Tris”—meaning, my heart is sad.

How I will reconcile all of these experiences is still unknown to me.  I find my heart and head wandering around the streets of Petit Goave late at night now restless in the unknown.  I miss Haiti terribly.

Our time in Honduras has already been so productive- we are spread out between three clinics on the Island while also working as the doctor and medics on Aeromedical a helicopter that flies emergency victims to the main land.  I have already found my little boy love- his name is Oscar and he is a gorgeous 3 year old that suffers from Down Syndrome.  He is the most incredible and rambunctious little soul- unable to speak but communicates in a way that speaks directly to the heart.  It’s hard for me at times, I

feel his little body in my arms and can feel the same warmth and heart beat that was once my Cheeks.  And I know that one day I will be holding another little one and think of my time spent with Oscar– each of them holding onto a piece of my heart long after they forget the details of our time spent together.

Little Man ‘Cheeks’

“Look for me by moonlight;

Watch for me by moonlight;

I’ll come for thee by moonlight,t hough hell should bar the way”

I wish that I could take each of them by moonlight- take them to a place where no pain or stigma exists- I wish that the my love would ease any burden- but I am honored to be the one that holds these little wonders, still so happy and full of joy no matter of the obstacles that lay in their way.  My heart, I hope in some ways, will always beat in time with theirs.

Smiling Oscar- melting hearts.

There are no safety nets in what we are doing- not for us, for our minds, and most of all for our hearts.  Each of the crew will carry the joys and scars of our experiences, we will carry those that are left behind with us until our hearts stop and our bodies are freed from the confines of this life.  I am lucky to have heard the laughter of children playing in the rubble piles of Haiti, to have felt the hands of a Honduran boy unable to speak grasp my fingers while fighting his way up a flight of stairs, to have seen the ocean glow green on a moonless night in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, and to have done all of it with the finest group of people I have ever know.