I’m working my night shifts this weekend.  I worked full-time nights for seven years, and now I only work about two per month.  It’s hard.  At age 43, my resilience for fatigue isn’t what it used to be.

On the way here, I engaged in my normal night-shift ritual.  I stopped at Jack-in-the-Box in Seneca, South Carolina.  The drive thru, and lobby, were closed.  They were closed 15 minutes before closing.  Fifteen precious minutes in which I could have gotten my chocolate desert, my Jumbo Jack burger, my large iced tea and my Diet Coke.  Rituals are important, and their interruption can be quite difficult.  Fortunately, Wal-Mart is right behind Jack.  I got some pita and hummus, some M and M’s and drinks from MacDonalds.  I’m fine, and probably a little better off without the burger.

But the point remains that Jack-in-the-Box didn’t have to stay open.  (Even though I think they let me down personally!)  Medicine, on the other hand, is 24/7.  There isn’t a day when we can simply close the ER because we’re tired or understaffed.

So…we have to work nights.  And though nights are hard, they’re just part of the territory of medicine; especially emergency medicine.

We all do what we have to, in order to get through the night.  Last night, in the midst of mental health crises, drunks with lacerations, car wrecks, medical evaluations of incarcerated drunks, chest pain, fevers and all the rest, I kept visiting the Danish pastry that someone had left for us.  And the pretzels with Wasabi-raspberry dip.  Yes, I eat my way through the madness of the night.

But that isn’t all.  When I leave for work at night, I kiss my wife and children.  I walk out the door and look up at the stars that shine so clear above our hilltop house.  I talk to the dogs, then get in my car to drive the 20 minutes to the hospital.

At some point, either before I leave for work, or in the car, I have a prayer I say.  It’s this, really, that gets me through. It’s this that encourages me.  And I’m convinced it’s God that gives me compassion for madness, insight in complexity, skill in the midst of my inadequacies.

It isn’t a complicated prayer.  It’s this:

Dear Lord,

Watch over Jan, Sam, Seth, Elijah and Elysa tonight.  Keep them safe from all dangers, physical, mental and spiritual.  Protect them from all harm of evil men or evil spirits, from accidents and diseases.  Bring us safely home together in the morning.

And let no one be critically injured or killed or die tonight.  And please let me not make any serious errors in anyone’s care.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

I know He answers it.  Sometimes bad things do happen, but in whatever way, in ways I can’t perceive, He answers it. And He has guided me through confusing social situations, labyrinthine dispositions, impossible lumbar punctures and horrible intubations.

And every morning I’ve come home to see my family safe.

Does this mean something bad will never happen?  No.  But as I go out into the night, it is my hope, it is my faith, it is my prayer.  And more than Jack-in-the-Box, more than M and M’s or iced tea, more than Danishes or my occasionally sarcastic blog-posts, that prayer and my faith in the God I pray it to, gets me though the night.

May you have quiet nights and safe families, and my God guide your path, quicken your mind and move your hands.

Edwin

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