Treating bodies and souls

Published 6:13 pm Saturday, August 3, 2013

Penney Doughtie (right) holds a globe she used to show these Swazi boys where she lives.

Penney Doughtie (right) holds a globe she used to show these Swazi boys where she lives.


Penney Doughtie and Beverly Dawson went on a medical-spiritual mission to Swaziland to help change lives — not expecting their lives to change.

That’s what happened earlier this when they accompanied members of Washington’s First Baptist Church and area health-care providers to Swaziland, a kingdom in the southern part of Africa. The medical personnel were there to treat medical conditions as best they could with limited resource and medications. The church members were there to treat spiritual conditions. Some were involved with both roles.

Penney Doughtie, a member of the church, has no formal medical training, yet she was assigned to one of the “pharmacies” associated with one of the mission’s clinics. Doughtie said her experiences in Swaziland are unforgettable. She wants to return.

“It was everything that I had expected — plus a lot more,” she said.

Doughtie said she’s amazed at the loving nature of the Swazi people and how they accepted the mission team.

“The Swazi people, they have very little. They just seem satisfied with their lives and with what they have or don’t have,” Doughtie said.

One thing got her attention.

“I noticed that the people were really young or really old. There was no in between. I know for sure that I did not see anybody from 25 to 35 to 45. … There were young children, young women and men and then a gap, and then older people. That’s because of the AIDS epidemic,” said Doughtie, adding that many Swazi children are born with the AIDS/HIV virus.

Doughtie recalled seeing an older Swazi woman wearing a black hat as she left the clinic. When Doughtie learned the black hat meant someone in the woman’s family died recently, she sent word through an interpreter she wanted pray with that woman. Doughtie got a male member of the mission team to accompany her.

“This one lady… just looked so sad and so stressed. In her eyes, I could see her pain,” said Doughtie, who learned the woman’s last surviving child had died, leaving her with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

After praying with the woman, Doughtie said, the Swazi woman asked for something to help her rest. Absent of such medicine, the woman was given Tylenol, Doughtie said.

“When I went back out there to give her that, she had the interpreter to apologize because she cried. Crying was a sign of weakness. She wanted to apologize to me and the other team member that prayed with her. I explained to the interpreter to explain to her that we didn’t see it as a sign of weakness in any way. We saw it as a sign of lover for her child. She just hugged me and squeezed me like I have never been hugged in my entire life,” Doughtie said.

Dawson also wants to return to Swaziland.

For Dawson, a registered nurse at Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston and whose sister, Shannon White, is a member of First Baptist Church, said the mission trip changed at least one life — her life.

Dawson said she felt like she provided minimal medical help because the medicine the team had was short-term, giving some relief but not curing medical conditions.

“Our clinics were not something that was going to cure them, by no means,” Dawson said.

“Those people really touched my heart. They humbled me to a place I needed to be. They made me realized just how blessed I am, how I take life for granted,” she said.

Dawson said her experiences during the medical mission resulted in changing how she approaches nursing.

“When I look at someone now … I feel like my compassion for people has significantly changed,” Dawson said. “I work in the emergency room. I felt like I just went right on through each patient, just hurrying on with my day. Each person came in and they were just another person, just one more task to get done. I do feel … as an ER nurse we begin to see them as not a human being. We forget that they are somebody’s mother, somebody’s grandmother. I do feel that I am a compassionate person, but not to the extent I should have been.”

Dawson said there’s no doubt visiting and working in Swaziland was the right thing to do.

“I think I needed that eye-opening experience to get me back to where I once was when I went into nursing school. I take the time to hear their stories and listen to the reason they came into see me, even if it’s minor and not a true emergency. It is to them.”






About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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