In preparation, we prepared one box full of prenatal vitamins. We prepared a second box filled with an odd assortment of medications which were left from the Mission of Healing which we had held in Nejapa: skin creams, children's acetaminophen and amoxicillin, anti-biotics for adults, some medications for diabetes -- a wide variety of items. We prepared detailed lists, documenting each item with it's size, quantity of tablets, and cost per unit. We thought about the young pharmacist's words: We have no medicines for children. We're at the bottom of the list for receiving medications from the government's Unidad de Salud.
We also carefully went through the diagnosis papers for the women who had received check-ups. We prepared a bag for each woman who needed a medication which we were not able to provide at the time of our first visit. Each bag was documented with the woman's name, age and the contents of the bag with the unit cost. The bags will be held by the doctor, like those we prepared on our first visit, and the women will go to the doctor each day to receive their medications for that day. We thought about the women's words: No one keeps their promises to us.
It's hard to keep promises when resources are not available or too expensive. We purchased one bottle of scabies lotion for the woman with systemic skin infection. It cost about $20.
We arrived at the prison - a Salvadoran pastor, the nurse practitioner and I. We waited in our micro outside the main gate while the guard called to check on our permission for entry. After a while, the guard motioned for us to come inside. We grabbed our two big boxes and one small box of patient bags and went inside. We were ushered to the second main gate. The happy guard with the long pony-tail poking out from under her cap smiled and said something to her partner. The partner unlocked the gate and opened it a bit. "Do you have any cameras, cell phones or memory chips?" "No," we responded.
We walked right in. No check of passports. No metal detector. No x-rays of body cavities (by the machine which in our stories has now acquired the nickname ass-checker). The afternoon doctor came and greeted us. She looked over the contents of the boxes. The pastor had brought in a black trash bag with boxes of markers and crayons for the preschool. These did not have a permission list for entry, but the assistant "boss" called his boss and got permission for us to leave those too. Everyone was happy and excited about our return and the things we brought for the women. We knew we were not going to be able to see the women in person, but we feel we can trust the doctors and the pharmacist.
The long-term impact of our little Mission of Healing in the women's prison remains to be seen. It seems like the authorities there are open to continued relationships with the Lutheran Church pastors. The pastors have learned about the ways in which they can connect with the women in the prison. We have made plans for a Mission of Healing in the prison in early 2014, and now we know much more about the needs of the women and the children who live there.
It is difficult to think about the more than 2000 women who live in the prison and with whom we did not visit. The memories of the woman with kidney failure, the woman who will soon lose her remaining leg and then her remaining hand, and the women who have no visitors linger sadly in our minds. We remember these women, and we share their stories.
Dear God. please multiply three boxes of kept-promises medications and one day of love, caring and singing to create something positive for the women in the Ilopango prison.
“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”