by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
Life-changing is how registered nurse Suzie Stadler, a parishioner of St. John Paul II Parish in Olathe, described her mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico.
“Spiritually for me, to be in a scary time and just to see how it can truly be overcome . . . I came home completely changed,” Stadler said.
Stadler accompanied Dr. Gary Morsch, founder of COVID Care Force Effort, to Tijuana May 24-28 to assist the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta. The order had been hit hard by COVID.
The care force is an extension of Morsch’s organization, Heart to Heart International, which helps improve access to health care, provides humanitarian development and administers crisis relief to communities worldwide.
“That was a terrible situation for them. They had no downtime, and they were working [like mad] — the ones that could,” said Stadler of the Sisters. “How they were just joyful to overcome it was a beautiful lesson.”
The need for the trip came about when Morsch was put in contact with the regional superior of the Sisters in Tijuana, and it was decided that he and a nurse would go and assess the situation.
From there, Morsch reached out to Dr. Amanda Tauscher, Johnson County Dermatology co-owner and a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Shawnee, who recommended Stadler accompany him on the trip.
“When I spoke to Dr. Morsch and listened to him explain the urgent situation in Tijuana, Suzie’s name nearly immediately came to mind,” Tauscher said. “Suzie has worked with me for years, and she has some really special gifts.
“She has what Dr. Morsch calls a ‘servant’s heart,’” she continued. “Suzie has a special ability to recognize those who are hurting and do something selfless out of love to help them heal.
“Her vocation as a nurse is part of the very fabric of her being. I also knew this particular call to serve was going to be especially challenging, because the first person to arrive would be faced with the most unknowns.”
But Tauscher believed Stadler was up to the challenge.
“I know Suzie to have grit and faith such that she would not let fear keep her from helping those in need,” she said. “As a fairly new convert myself, I remain less familiar with some elements of the culture of Catholicism. But that is all so naturally a part of Suzie’s life and upbringing. I absolutely knew she would be entirely at ease with the Sisters in Tijuana.”
At ease she was, Stadler said.
“I’m very comfortable being around religious life,” Stadler explained. “They were just as cute as can be, and we were like celebrities because they had been locked up and not able to go anywhere, and they were just so gracious.
“I would have stayed there for four weeks.”
Not only did she develop relationships with the Sisters, but Stadler also had the opportunity to meet with friends of the actual saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta, including her postulator and the priest who was at her bedside when she passed.
“I always had a devotion to Mother Teresa,” Stadler said. “[Meeting them all] was just the coolest religious experience of my life.”
While there, not only did Stadler help Morsch assess the situation and bring in medical supplies, but she also provided bedside care to the ill.
“I’ve been a nurse for 18 years but have been out of bedside nursing for a very long time, so it was awesome just to go be a nurse,” Stadler said. “It was so up my alley.”
Morsch said Stadler was the perfect person to accompany him.
“Suzie went, and she just absolutely did a phenomenal job and saved them psychologically and spiritually. They were depressed, they were defeated, they were discouraged,” Morsch said. “Suzie helped lay the foundation for what COVID Care Force is now doing throughout Mexico.”
“Suzie is awesome. I wish I could clone her,” he added. “She is the perfect volunteer. She’s energetic, she doesn’t take herself real seriously, she’s a lot of fun and she’ll do anything.
“She’ll clean bathrooms, clean wounds, start NG (nasogastric) tubes. . . . She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, and she always does it with a positive, Christ-like attitude.”
Stadler said she hopes by sharing her experience that other medical professionals will want to help.
“I would like to help recruit if there are health care professionals here who would like to have this amazing opportunity and can or would be willing to go or even just support the mission of COVID Care Force,” Stadler said.