This past Monday Paola Martinez tearfully said goodbye to her seven year old son, Johan, at the airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Lori Dunn, an airline ambassador for American Airlines was transporting Johan to Boston for continued medical treatment at Shriners Hospital. Six years ago Paola had accompanied Johan, who was born with a lymphatic malformation in his arm and chest and received two operations during their five month stay. Paola and her husband, Eduin, now have a one month old baby girl and would remain in Honduras.
I cannot begin to fathom what a mother goes through emotionally when she sends her child off with a stranger, to another country, to face intricate surgeries. Sadness, fear, emptiness to name a few emotions. But it is Paola’s endless love for Johan and her selflessness that enables her to let him go, and trust in others.
Despite being thousands of miles apart, Johan is never far from his mother’s thoughts. Paola has been faithfully calling her son to see how he is adjusting to living without her. I assure her that he is a happy, kind and polite little boy who has been having fun riding his scooter, going to the playground and trying new foods. I don’t share that the first few nights at our home were hard for Johan. In Honduras, he lives in a one room structure where the whole family sleeps in the same bed. Here he is given his own bed, in his own room, on his own floor of the house. It may be fun during the day, but it’s scary at night and the only time Johan expresses missing his mom. It’s heartbreaking watching this little boy trying to be strong as the big tears trickle down his face. I may be his fun playmate during the day, but nobody can replace Mommy at night.
Right now I am writing this in the waiting room while Johan is in the OR for approximately five hours. Just before he went in, his mom called to send her love, and comfort him. We’re three and a half hours in, and it’s a long wait…but not as long as it is for his mom. She is at home with her extended family, praying for the doctor and his team, and for a safe and successful surgery for Johan. I’m anxiously awaiting to hear Johan is in the recovery room and be able to call Paola with the news!