It was my birthday this week, and I ate McDonalds! That made me very happy. I sent some pictures. (forwarded later) I will give a very detailed letter about this week.
Monday- We returned from Vilhena taking 2 airplanes and 2 lay-overs to get there. It was wonderful to sit down and talk with President Reber (Romans mission Pres) on the airplane to Cuiabá. Man, he is an incredible man, and Sister Reber is such a calming person. I felt so comfortable on the airplane rides. Actually, coming into Manaus, there was a huge rainstorm going on and we experienced some very strong turbulence. At one point it felt like the airplane was falling and I liked it! There was lady who screamed though and that kind of ruined the party. Anyways, the pilot landed safely and we took a taxi back to the staff office.
Tuesday - So, because of that pain that I had in my chest a few weeks ago on the bus, we decided that it would be best for me to go to the hospital and check it out. So we decided to not return straight to Boa Vista and instead take a day to see the doctor. Well, little did we know it would not take just a day. We went to the doctor early in the morning to schedule an appointment with Cardiology. The lady there said the earliest we could get in was Friday. That was not going to work. So we decided to go to emergency care area and see if they could check me out. We got in a line that took forever and when we were finally attended, the doctor was not so pleasant. He had me do a ECG and a blood test. The blood tests were normal and he took the ECG and said they were fine, but he would schedule with cardiology anyway because of my pain. However, he could not schedule until Friday. LAME. So we told Sister Klein who decided to go to the hospital with us the next day to see what she could do to speed things up.
So later on March 5th we found ourselves at the hospital again. We waited for Sister Klein and then she talked to some of her contacts. After a bit of fuss we were managed to get in for March 6th, 7 am. Awesome. I was going to the doctor on my birthday.
During this whole time we would stay at the mission office, and Elder Shepherd and I would enter in baptismal records into the computer system. The mission was backed up by over 1000 records and we had a lot to do, but we managed to get ALL of it done this week. Elder shepherd did most of the work entering because I was busy taking the forms that were filled out wrong and calling missionaries to have them filled out correctly. What a man Elder Shepard is!
Anyways, I actually started a large journal entry about my birthday. I have not completed it but I will put a part of it in this letter:
"The following is the account of what happened on the sixth day of march, year 2013; my 21st birthday.
T´was a wonderful day in the beginning of March as I arose from my bed. I was tired. Really tired. It had been awhile since I had slept in his own bed and a night in the secretaries’ house, though comfortable, was not the full night’s rest that had long been expected by my tired corpse. However, there was no excuse sufficient to hold me in bed. There were things to get done that day; very important things. The fleeting thought rolled through my mind that none of the tasks that laid before me were truly that important, and that I might just be able to get away with one more hour or two of slumber. This thought passed through my mind often. But rational conclusion quickly defeated such a thought. I had to go to the hospital and I had to go that very day. Harsh.
So I arose from my and quickly assessed the situation I now found himself in. No water in the bathroom, just a bucket. That water was bound to be bone chilling and there was no time to heat up a few pans of hot water on the stove as I had done the night before. I quite enjoy hot showers in the morning. I enjoy them at night as well. Any hour could be the perfect moment for a hot shower for me except the actual moment that I now found himself in. The hot water was abandoned and reluctantly I made my way to the faucet with the orange bucket. I was not happy about this.
So distracted had I become, that I had actually completely forgot about the special day that was the 6th of March. Honestly, I simply had not even considered that date up until this point and all that ran through my mind was in no way connected to the date. Hospital, heart, shower, cold water, lame. I was late by 20 or so minutes by my assessment of the situation and I was now contemplating how I was to recuperate 20 minutes. I made my way over to the shower. Elder Shepherd had quietly appeared in the hallway now and as he passed on the left, he gave a loud reminder to me that it was my birthday. A large smile appeared on my face and I appreciated the announcement. Elder Shepherd well timed those words.
They were kind words on the march to war against body odor. Unfortunately, my weapon against such odor was not preferable. Clothes off. I grabbed the pot that had been left in the bathroom for shower purposes. In to the water it went, back out it came. I hate cold showers. Oh how I detest cold showers. Because of such, rather than throwing the pot over my head, I simply overturned the pot by a few degrees. ICE. I was no longer in any way happy about the shower. No, the cold water would not do after all. I gave up and overturned the pot on my head to wash the previously applied soap from my face. One more pot was dashed over the head and that was the end of the shower. After a quick towel-off and a zit-check in the mirror, I found the silver lining of the day – I had recovered 10 minutes. Wonderful. Now I just had to find 10 more. Maybe Elder Shepherd would be just as afraid of the cold water as I was.
Elder Shepherd was not as afraid of cold water as I was. They traded places. Elder Shepherd assumed the shower with another large bucket of water, and I assumed place in front of the ironing board to prepare my white button-down shirt. I had grown quite accustomed to the daily ritual and as I passed hot metal over my cotton-polyester blend shirt and now found myself reflecting on how many times I had done the same thing before. Every day of my mission I had done that. Shower, then iron. Sometimes it was the reverse order. But regardless I realized I had done this every day for almost 2 years. The shirt was ironed. So I put on the shirt, thinking how I had ironed a shirt to simply stuff it inside a pair of slacks. I put on my slacks and then when waited for Elder Shepherd. Elder Shepherd had not been afraid of the water. He took his time.
Soon enough Elder Shepherd appeared once again and also prepared himself for the day. The basics. Shirt, toothpaste, brush, gel, Book of Mormon. We were set. It was 6:30 am. We were supposed to already be gone. I held in my heart the fear I now had of arriving late. I hate arriving late just as much as I hate cold showers. But there was no need to express such fear; no need to tell Elder Shepherd of my frustration. The deed had been done and no amount of complaining or explaining to Elder Shepherd would change that. They would just have to call the taxi and hope for good traffic. I found solace in that thought. Elder Shepherd showed no signs of stress. The taxi arrived and they made there way to the hospital.
Traffic did move quickly and the taxi found its way to the building downtown in record time, thus soothing my soul. We arrived just before 7am. It was not preferable, yes, I did want to arrive early but the worst was behind us. We were on time. We paid the wonderful taxi-man with a voucher slip from the mission office and shuffled ourselves into an empty elevator to the 3rd floor of the building. I expected to find a very full, organized waiting room. I was wrong. The room was almost empty and there was no one to direct us to where the cardiology department. The elevator had opened up to a large room full of green plush chairs which appeared mildly but not too comfortable. Each wall was plastered with doors, though none of them were marked with exactly what went on behind them. They were simply labeled "consulting 1, consulting 2, etc." I felt lost and a tad late. Where were we to go? We waited for a receptionist to appear, who then explained that she was not on duty for another hour and could not help us. Still lost. We got up the courage to then check out a door located in the back corner of the room which seemed to have a reasonable amount of movement about it.
The nurse who was found in the room confirmed that it was in-fact the cardiologists office and she asked my ID and health plan card. I felt so relieved and quickly handed over the required documents. I had had them on the ready because previous hospital visits from the day before had taught me that nothing happens in a hospital until they know you are going to pay. She returned the documents to me and directed us to sit in the reception room and to wait until we were called. Great. I loved waking up early and in a hustle to sit and wait in reception hall.
The wait was long, but not too long as to completely annoy us, who were mostly just tired and just wished to return to our beds. I had even managed to dose off for a bit while waiting. However, that moment was the moment in which my name was called and I was ushered into the small office of the doctor along with Elder Shepherd. It was a comfortable office. I first noticed the Galaxy Notebook on the doctors desk, then I noticed the doctor, and what he was asking for; my weight and height. 62 kilos (136lbs) was my weight; that was something I knew, but when the doctor asked for my height, I forced to asked the doctor to convert 69 inches (5ft 9in) into meters on the Galaxy notebook. It came out to 1 meter, 72 centimeters. Wonderful. We proceeded to converse about the weeks previous events and how I had been feeling. I explained my previous pain attack on the bus and accounted all that had come to pass since. This did not seem to worry the doctor. It was obvious that he had seen worse. We continued to talk. The subject moved to Brazilian medical care vs US care; since the doctor was currently studying in the US. He commented on the wonders of American organization. But the light chat was quickly terminated when the printer kicked to life. The doctor handed over 3 documents to me and instructed me on how to go to the department floor which would perform one of such exams. The others would be done later that day, and the following day. I was told to go and come back at 2 pm to finish the tests for the day.
So we made our way down the 3 floors and tried our best to follow the directions which had been previous explained to us, though in our experience, we had already learned that no one in Manaus really knows how to give directions. Or, at least, that they did not know how to follow directions given by those who lived in Manaus. But luck was on our our side. Another hospital worker explained once again and we found ourselves far away in the depths of the building, checking in to perform the test prescribed. We waited in another line, only to be told to wait in different line. I presented my ID and health care card another time. It was verified once again, that our plan covered the test, and we were ushered to another waiting room."
After all that happened they performed a CAT scan. COOLEST THING EVER. I have never been so blown away with a machine in my entire life! So cool. It made me want to be a CAT scan guy. I was so impressed. I want to know how it worked! Amazing!!
We then went upstairs where the doctors performed a echo-cardiogram. It was quite intrigued and impressed with that machine again, and it was so cool to get to see my insides on my birthday! We probed around and finally found out that I have Mitral Valve Prolapse. It's a very common heart condition. Usually only shows up as a heart murmur but for some reason I'm having other symptoms like pain and fatigue. Nothing serious. They gave me some medication and I have to see some doctors when I get home in three weeks. The Cardiologist and President both feel confident that I am fine to finish out my mission here and don't need to come home early. (Don't worry mother)
Then later on for my birthday we went to McDonald's to celebrate and walked back to staff from the hospital. It took about 2 hours. HAHAHA.
The subsequent days were spent working at staff and entering in baptismal records and having way to much fun! I got to relax a little bit more. Though, I am super anxious to go back to the field. Looks like we are heading back to Boa Vista for the next three weeks to finish our assignment there. I have so little time to work now!!!!!!!!
I have developed a huge testimony of this gospel. I see now the true meaning of everything that we do and must get done in this life. I better understand my Savior. I feel like, slowly the mysteries of God are unraveling and I can see beyond. Wonderful. I LOVE the scriptures. I know they are the word of God. I ask all to read the Book of Mormon. Please. Your salvation depends on it.
I love you all and miss you guys. See you soon!!
eu vos amo,
Elder Asa Laws