"Ah, but that is not my oeuvre. To see my oeuvre you have to come to Haiti"
-Dr. Paul FarmerMountains Beyond Mountains is a book by Tracy Kidder based on the life of Dr. Paul Farmer. This book takes us on the journey of Farmer, a boy from Florida trying to find his niche, to a world renowned "Doctor to the Poor", whose organization Partners in Health now serves poverty stricken people around the world. He can simply be described as a straight talking, passionate leader who wants to cure the world. Some have said he is too idealistic and that his goals are unreachable, however I believe that he proved them wrong in this book. His personality is probably the most controversial part of the book because he is somewhat non-human. He is able to have a strong emotional connection with patients he has just met, yet is virtually unaffected when apart from his family for long periods of time. Farmer is so immersed in what he is doing that he can't and won't remove his focus from it. I think it is truly remarkable that he is so passionate about curing the world that he won't let anything get in the way, even himself. He pays attention to his patients needs over his own. This book really resonated with me because I feel like I can understand his passion and drive. All he wants in life is to cure the world.
As I read the book I tried to understand where Farmer was coming from. Why did he care so much? What led him to the conclusion that he must help the peasants of Haiti? Then I got to page 24 and it hit me. Farmer said to Kidder one night "I can't sleep. There's always somebody not getting treatment. I can't stand that." He went on to say, "If you're making sacrifices, unless you're automatically following some rule, it stands to reason that you're trying to lessen some psychic discomfort." I got it. I knew what he meant; he was saying that there was something inside of him that made him want to help people and it was almost unthinkable to him that these Haitians weren't being helped.
While reading the book, I also looked for Farmer's epiphany. I wanted to take note of the moment when he realized this is what he would dedicate his life to. It happened during his first trip to Haiti. He stopped in Cange, a town he would eventually implement his first hospital in, where he saw people living in the most unfathomable of conditions. At one point, Kidder noted, "An individual might exist in misery this great almost anywhere, but it was hard to imagine an entire community poorer and sicker than this." After seeing Cange, the picture was permanently embedded in his brain. As he moved through Haiti, he came across a nice American doctor who was leaving Haiti in the coming days. Farmer asked, "Aren't you worries about not being able to forget all this? There's so much disease here." The doctor replied "No, I'm an American, and I'm going home." Later that day, Farmer had a pregnant women come in with malaria who needed a blood transfusion. This proved to be difficult since there was no blood bank in that clinic. The women and unborn child sadly died and the distraught sister of the women said in anguish, "This is terrible. You can't even get a blood transfusion if you're poor. We're all human beings"
From that moment on it was apparent to Farmer, as well as to me, that it doesn't matter whether you are American, Haitian or anything else, no one should live like those people from Cange, because at the end of the day, we are all human beings.