This morning Rocky walked through the gate of the Team Rwanda compound carrying his bike, apparently there was a deraillur issue. Rocky was supposed to be here yesterday and Kevin, Travis, Jody and I all stuck by the house to make sure someone was here when he arrived. He never came. Not the first time a rider has done this, nor will it be the last. It is a constant teaching/learning process with even the simplest of tasks.
When I asked Rocky why he was disrespectful of our time and why he did not at least call us to let us know he would not be here, he shook his head and said things at home with his son were very, very bad. He said a doctor had come to his house yesterday and told Rocky they would need to amputate his five year old son's leg. A couple of staff were standing next to me listening to Rocky and one gasped in horror. I turned and said, "Do NOT do that, do not." The look I received was read by me as, "Wow, you are a cold hearted bitch." I could have been completely mistaken.
Almost four years ago I was on a motorcycle trip from South Africa, through nine countries, to Rwanda. On the last day of the trip, approximately 300kms from the Rwandan border, in the middle of no where Tanzania, on a rain soaked, slippery clay dirt road, I came off the motorcycle landing squarely on my right upper back. The force snapped my right collarbone like a dried out Thanksgiving wishbone. As I writhed in pain in the mud in the middle of the road I screamed, "My collarbone is broken, my collarbone is broken!". Jock ran over to me after getting himself untangled from the motorcycle and lifted up my helmet visor and quietly said, "It is not broken, you're fine." I yelled back, "Unzip my jacket and look, it's broken!". Silently I thought to myself, what an asshole, he's not even upset or worried and we're 300kms from nowhere. He unzipped my coat and quickly zipped it back up and said, "Yep, it's broken."
Jock did something I didn't realize until much later, he was calm to keep me calm. If he would have gasped in horror, I would have completely FREAKED out. Because he was calm, I was calm and then a methodical series of events and logistics took place to get me home. A little over 24 hours later I was home in Musanze, with a bicycle inner tube as my figure 8 brace and sling.
I do not know all the details about Rocky's son's injury. It happened when I was in the US and it is so difficult to get accurate information especially regarding the substandard medical care in rural Rwanda. I did not know it had continued to decline until today's conversation.
Rocky was stressed, very stressed as only a father could be. I simply said to him, I will call Dr. Albert in Kigali at King Faisal and we will make arrangements to bring his son to an orthopedic specialist at the only hospital in Rwanda I would consider entering. Rocky looked at me doubtfully, already resigned to his son's fate. I told him I would handle it and we would get him seen by a specialist. He still shook his head in doubt. I reminded him who was the one who finally made his glass eye happen. He smiled and said....you.
By the time he left he finally had a glimmer of hope. For the moment his stress subsided.
I walked over to the two staff members and explained why you can never show emotion as the one did. I explained how if you're calm, they will be calm and not stressed. I said.....We are the Fixers.
In our documentary, Rising From Ashes, there is a line spoken by the narrator, "to build a cycling team in Rwanda would require more than just attending to their physical needs."
Every day I am faced with medical issues, family issues, visa and passport issues all of this within a culture where everything must be extracted by painfully, agonizingly piece meal conversations. I never have all the facts and I never will yet I make decisions to "fix" whatever in their life is "unfixable".
Lack of emotion? Deep inside I mainly feel a tremendous amount of anger. In Rocky's situation I am angry at the pathetic medical care his child has received. I'm angry Rocky, a rural, poor cyclist, cannot provide for his family's needs because he does not have the same access to things wealthy Rwandans do or even worse, white people like me have access to.
His son's situation is dire. His son may still lose his leg. I will not know what can be done until we get him to Kigali. I will use every resource we have to save his leg and no matter the outcome we will be here to help his family face whatever the outcome.
We are the Fixers....