Stories like those of DMU graduate Heather Fowler, D.O.’94, give me pause, perspective and reasons to be thankful for my many blessings. As a teenager, Dr. Fowler read a book by Viggo Olsen, M.D., titled Daktar: Diplomat in Bangladesh, which chronicled his medical missionary work and efforts to establish the country’s first modern medical facility. That book and her deep faith in God led her in 1999 to locate in Bangladesh, where she serves a wide variety of patients – many with critical needs and advanced diseases – at Malumghat Hospital, the center she read about in Olsen’s book.
“That’s just how God directed,” she told me during our initial conversation in 2010.
Her work is not for wimps. Approximately 160 million people live in the South Asian country, which is slightly smaller land-wise than Iowa (which has just over three million people). Nearly half live below the poverty line. Malnutrition is rampant; diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria and rabies are common. Immunizations and clean water are hard to come by, making good health “nearly impossible,” she said.
Since our first conversation, Dr. Fowler has included me in her regular “Flower Talk” e-mail reports, which typically reflect the often-horrendous conditions and crippling government bureaucracy she, her colleagues and their patients face. But also striking are her focus on meeting needs, her unshakeable faith, her unconditional love of others and her wry humor.
In her latest message, she noted, “This past weekend did not disappoint in the ‘Lord this is too much for me!’ category.”
Then Dr. Fowler describes how she and her colleagues treated two women, one pregnant, who came to the hospital “with their oxygen levels at half what they should be.” Despite the crisis, Dr. Fowler managed to save the baby and mother who, after her breathing tube had been removed, “told a story of how she had started feeling bad early that morning and they had gone from hospital to hospital and no one would take them in…does that story sound vaguely familiar? A woman in labor with nowhere to go?”
Regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof, you have to be amazed by Dr. Fowler and others who give of themselves so selflessly.
“I’ll admit it’s overwhelming at times,” she told me. “But you help individuals…it goes along with the D.O. philosophy, the commitment to the whole person physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Count your blessings!