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Two Book Reviews: Biographies of Paul and Margaret Brand

The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It

Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 1997

Paul Brand was a medical missionary in India, and the son of missionaries. He specialized in treating people who suffered from leprosy and is credited with being the first to discover that leprosy did not cause rotting of the flesh, as previous generations has supposed. Brand observed instead that the disease deadened the nerves that brought messages of pain to the brain. Without these messages, his patients repeatedly injured themselves. These injuries became infected and caused the loss if fingers and toes, and often the loss of ability to earn a wage. Brand fought this progression with surgical and practical means—surgically rerouting healthy tendons to replace deadened ones, for example, and sending each patient home with a cat, so rats didn’t chew off numbed digits while the patients slept. He set up a school to teach those with leprous hands how to safely use them to earn a living as a carpenter or plumber, and set up a cobbler’s shop, where customized shoes were made to protect the deformed feet of his patients. Brand spent decades treating patients who could not feel physical pain, and though it sounds odd to our sensibilities, he said, “If I could give any one gift to my patients, it would be the gift of pain.” The Gift of Pain is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

If you prefer to watch the Brand’s story on video, here’s a link to a three-part series by Day of Discovery http://www.dod.org/Products/DOD1982.aspx . (It does graphically show the effects of leprosy on the hands and eyes, and may not be suitable for tender-hearted children.)

Vision for God: The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand

by Dr. Margaret Brand and Dr. James Jost, Discovery House, 2006

“We always believed that the Lord who took us in would take us through, adventure by adventure.”-Dr. Margaret Brand

Her baby was just two weeks old when the note came, asking Dr. Margaret Brand to go to work part time, without salary, in the mission hospital where her husband was on staff. The note arrived by messenger and said, “We must have help in the eye department.” It couldn’t have been a worse fit. Margaret had actually missed the ophthalmology rotation in her medical school training and had no experience in the field. She wrote back, “I know nothing about eyes. You’ll have to look for someone else. Sorry.” One hour later there was another knock on the door. The messenger once again handed Margaret a note. “You’ll learn,” it said. “Please start on Monday.”

To say that she learned is an understatement. That first day, the small eye clinic saw nearly 400 patients. Within a few weeks, she had learned to remove cataracts, a major cause of blindness in sun-drenched India. In eye camps held in remote villages, the team might perform 100 surgeries in a day, literally saving the lives of those who could no longer work to support themselves because of their blindness. Over the years, Margaret would also learn much about how the disease of leprosy affects the eye, and became the world’s foremost expert in the field. She pioneered surgical techniques to restore the ability to blink to her patients’ paralyzed eyelids and, still without becoming board certified in ophthalmology, became the Chief of Ophthalmology at the National Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, LA.

But this biography is much more than a medical journal. Margaret tells us what it was like to raise six energetic youngsters in a foreign and sometimes dangerous country. Someone always seemed to be having an adventure—like the time the pet leopard punctured their daughter’s jugular, the time Margaret locked herself and some friends in a padded cell in an abandoned mental hospital, the time the gibbon grabbed her daughter’s hair and Margaret played tug-of-war with her screaming child, the time marmalade exploded inside all their trunks on a sea voyage, the day they were presented to the Queen and Margaret twisted her ankle when she curtsied, and the many times one or another of the family succumbed to a tropical disease. All this happened as Margaret and her husband Paul homeschooled six children, became world-class authorities on the treatment of leprosy and, most importantly, shined the light of the gospel into the spiritual darkness of India.  Vision for God is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

 

Posted in: Biography, Book Review

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