I live with a kind of odd dichotomy. I’m a Christian; I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. I am, to use a word seldom invoked, orthodox. Not in the sense of Greek, Russian or Ethiopian Orthodox, with no disrespect to any of those venerable faith traditions. But in the sense that I follow, the best I can, the path laid out for me by Jesus the Christ, by the fathers and mothers of the faith, by the word of God and by his Spirit, that I believe dwells in me.
And yet, an odd thing happens when I enter the ER doors. I become appropriately rational and scientific, but sometimes I quite abruptly forget the things I hold most dear. I easily forget to show the love I’m commanded to show. I easily forget the debt of grace I owe, and judge others too sternly. And I forget, or even choose not, to pray.
Odd, that a believer in divine incarnation and power would simply skip over a thing that might be life changing, isn’t it? Does it mean that I’m so modern I don’t truly believe? Does it mean that I doubt the veracity of my faith and its author? Or does it mean that I am, somehow, just a simple coward, afraid to show his stripes to post-modern ‘scientific’ patients and doctors. I don’t really want the answer to that. But if I have to pick one, I’ll take coward; because I do believe. I don’t doubt God’s ability, and I certainly recognize my weakness.
If I ever take the step, maybe the thing I should do is offer prayer to anyone and everyone. I’ll tell you, many would take it. Many, in shattered bodies, or living like slaves in miserable conditions, would be happy for any glimmer of hope, any sign of affection whether human or divine. They aren’t as in love with studies and rationality as the well-fed, safe and prosperous.
I’ll tell you about a time it worked. 51-year-old inferior MI. Sudden ventricular fibrillation (for the non-medical, a dangerous heart rhythm incompatable with life). Defibrillated (shocked) about 15 times over 45 minutes. CPR intermittantly for the entire time. Pacemaker applied, with limited success. Thrombolytic drugs given (clot busters), along with almost every advanced life-support chemical we had. His wife and family watching, because I don’t mind that. She cried, and kissed him. She was worried he would end up with brain damage, and no longer be himself. His adult children cried, and kissed him.
In their eyes, I saw love, and hope and grief. I said to the room, nurses, respiratory techs and all…’we have to pray about this one.’ And they did. I know that in all those hearts, prayers went up.
We were almost finished. Ready to stop and call it a day, to talk to the weeping loved ones (including the elderly mother). But with the ultrasound, I saw a little bit of heart beat. A little bit of motion in this man blue from the shoulders up, breathing through the tube I placed in his trachea.
He was transferred to a regional cardiac care facility after almost an hour of our efforts. We prayed. I believed. I hoped. I wanted to cry, for wanting it to work.
Next morning, he was sitting up, eating ice chips and talking with his family about how sore his chest was.
What do you say? What can I say? Miraculous, that’s all.
Christian apologist and physician John Patrick (www.johnpatrick.ca) says ‘Be careful praying for your patients. You might start to like them, and you never know where that might lead.’
He’s right. I hope I can learn to do it more. The results may surprise me, like they did that day not so long ago.
PS If you pray, please pray for M, who lost her job as a physician and is struggling.