Friday June 6th, 2008….a day I wish to never revisit. The lessons learned will one day justify all this - but as for now - I can offer no explanation - only sorrow, complete humility and gut-wrenching heartbreak. The story goes like this:
I went to bed at a normal time on Thursday night. We had our station meeting with the missionaries here and got to go to Tommy’s house who is a missionary who lives in the village most of the year. He is an outstanding older man and I wish I could have even more time with him. When I got back home I was tired so I showered and went to bed thinking the whole time…how much more time do I have to stay without anyone to lean on, a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen? The minutes left count began then. I do love this place for reasons but I also have learned how soon sanity might break without family or at least a good close friend. Surely my attitude was wrong and I regret that. The Lord rebuked me of sin - maybe without His gentle touch this time. The following story was His cry out to me to turn from sin. His cry was heard….all around my world. So I had my alarm set for 6:50am as I do every day although I was already awake considering sweet Cheney outside YELLING for no apparant reason starting at 6am. I got out of bed to get dressed and pull myself together for hopefully a not so painful day of clinic. At first, things went my way - and then I got the real wake up call. So I ate a little and went up to the hospital to do rounds. To tell this story correctly I have to give some background on the first patient I saw Friday morning. This patient was a grown man who came in on Wednesday complaining of paralysis from his knees down. That’s not exactly how strokes usually present but with this numbness that was sudden with no associated injury or anything, you have to wonder. Dr. Hewitt admitted him and just started him on Aspirin just in case it was cardiac related. Thursday I saw him and he wasn’t any better…he was worse. He couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. I remember my note in the chart - expressing my concern that if the paralysis continued to ascend, it would eventually get to his diaphragm and he would stop breathing and die. I immediately began to think - what on earth is going on? After a few minutes in my mushy brain, I had an idea. I thought maybe this guy has what is called myasthenia gravis. I don’t remember a lot about it from school but I remember that it causes ascending paralysis and I don’t think anyone knows what causes it. I couldn’t for a minute remember how to treat it but then suddenly, ’steroids’ popped into my head. Without thinking another moment I asked for Dr. Hewitt’s consent on starting some steroids since it was his patient and he said I could try. So proudly, I walked back to this patient and just knew his cure was coming…steroids. So I ordered them in complete confidence. Back to Friday. I went to see this patient first because I was so excited to see if he got better. I looked at him and knew immediately that he was doing great. After some questioning, I learned that he was no longer numb and he was doing well. I was SO proud of myself for remembering anything and I took full credit for it all. Before I go on, I think I mentioned that I hadn’t been feeling well. By the time I got to the hospital on Friday I felt great - no nausea - nothing. So far, on this blazing hot day - everything was going my way. I move onto some other wards to see people and then finally make it to ward 5. This is where they hold kids (not babies) and some women too. I looked straight ahead and there were 2 young girls laying in their beds waiting to be seen. There was a little wooden stool between the beds and I decided to sit there and see these to girls. So I sat down and naturally, being right handed, I looked to my right to see this girl first who was there for a snake bite. All morning one of the nurses was acting so funny. I didn’t know what was wrong - he seemed to be in a panic but never said anything. So there was a female nurse standing next to me at the foot of the bed helping me translate for this little snake bite girl. She was doing well and I began to write discharge orders for her. To my left and a little behind me was another nurse, the one that was acting strange. The nurse that was helping me says, “well, are you going to see this next girl now or are you finished?” I said, “of course, I just need to see her chart.” So as the chart was being retrieved, I looked at this nurse who was acting funny and he says to me, “The girl had a seizure”. I said, ‘ok I need to give her some phenobarbital but I don’t have her chart yet and I can’t order it if it has already been ordered, so I need the chart.” By the time I said that, the chart was there and I began to look back through the orders. There was no order for phenobarbital, so I began to write it. As I began to write, the male nurse looks at me and says, “Madam, the patient has expired.” Ya.
For me as people have died around here, my first response is this initial shock that only lasts seconds, and then comes sorrow, then my anger because it doesn’t have to be this way - and then acceptance of the way things are and sometimes I even have peace especially if I hear they knew Jesus. That’s my cycle of grieving - whatever those psychologist say - that’s the way it works for me and it’s a cycle I know all too well now. I have each stage down to a time. I know that I will be shocked for about 30 long seconds, then sad for about 30 minutes and then I will be angry about it for a few hours and then by the end of the day I have accepted it. The worst part about it is that this cycle is pretty much my daily schedule. There are good days - few and far between.
Back to Friday. My initial response due to my shock was, “what!?!?” and he repeated, “This patient just expired.” Then my sorrow set in and behind many tears was medical personnel that had to do what I was taught and listen for heart tones, lung sounds and feel for a pulse. So that’s what I did and was disappointed at the result. I got nothing. Next, I looked at her face which I regret. I won’t describe that. Next I looked at the man standing next to me - stoic as could be. I met eyes with him and then he turned to look at his lifeless daughter. He hung his head over hers for one quick moment and then was taken away to the chaplains office. Haven’t seen him again. No chance to say I’m sorry - nothing. Still in my sorrow stage, crying, I stand back leaning against the wall hoping it would provide the support I needed to keep my from turning into an emotional puddle right there in front of all those people. The child to the left and the right of this little girl were just staring at her…just like everyone else in the room. My tears were the only ones in that room. Next, they brought in a curtain to hide the body, but we could still see everything. I couldn’t leave although half of me wanted to. Then before I could transition out of the sorrow stage, they came and took her away - off to the morgue. The next events were only a result of my grieving cycle, including locking myself in the bathroom to cry for a minute, taking deep breaths, faking my happiness to dodge having to explain any emotion, etc. I went back to work after all that.
As I tried to figure out why on earth I had to go through that…I only came up with a few things. I was sitting on that stool for at least 10 minutes tending to this young girl who just had a snakebite and was in no grave danger. No one ever said anything to me until it was too late about this other girl not doing well. By default, I looked to my right first and saw that girl first - never thinking anything about it. I do wish with everything in me that he would have told me this girl was not doing well - that’s what these nurses are supposed to do anyway. But at the same time I know without a doubt that if he would have told me, I would have been holding somebody’s baby girl in my arms doing anything I could to lengthen her life….and then she would have died literally in my arms. Maybe the Lord was protecting me from that, knowing that my heart would be heavy enough seeing what I saw - I didn’t need to have her die in my arms.
My point: Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” I will never again in my life be so prideful. The Lord showed me His unmatchable power on Friday. I thought I did something well - giving myself full credit and not even acknowledging His ability to bring things to my memory when I need them. I thought I did something well and built myself up about it and just as soon as I adopted that prideful attitude, He quickly allowed me to see what would happen if I were in control….destruction. I refuse to take the blame for that child’s death because I know she was very sick and was probably going to die anyway - regardless of any man made medicine I could have given, but nonetheless, I didn’t even look at her until it was too late. I have to have the Lord with me in all that I do, write, say, etc. He is everything and I wish the english language had a better word to describe what I want ‘everything’ to convey. There is nothing else - nothing. Without Him, there is only chaos, confusion, hurt, sorrow, mass destruction, loss, etc. I, at this moment, have more humility that ever before. I am hopefully going to learn to ask the Lord first before I do anything - even silly little things. He really does care and He really showed me that He was here on Friday. I am aware of His presence and His heart has overwhelmed me. He has a wrath and He is powerful. I have seen it first hand. I wasn’t prepared or emotionally stable enough at the moment to handle it all. Even though He allowed it to happen the way it did, He still cared about me and comforted me and gave me the strength I needed to carry on. I will never ever forget the picture of that room as I stood up against a lifeless wall crying - looking at the people - somewhat unaffected by the situation. This is certainly a lesson I will never forget.
In my journal last night I wrote the following: “Lord, help me stay humble here and for as long as I live. That little girl’s life was not my punishment for pride but you allowed that sequence of events to happen and allowed me to see it the way I did to teach me a lifelong lesson. You certainly are good Lord but I wish I wouldn’t have had to see that. I will never forget it - help me forget it. Please help me to recover - forget about what I saw - the child’s innocent face - but never forget my lesson. I trust you - even when I am alone and have no shoulder to cry on or lean on - I still have You. I know that my physical solitude has led me to spiritual abundance. Only having you is hard for all of us but I know now that you really are all I need and that I can handle anything as long as I have you with me - one step ahead of me. Thank you Lord for today eveb though I don’t understand it.”
I love you all. Please thank God for your own life today and those whom you love around you. Life is temporal. Life is so temporal. Not one second of your temporal life is guaranteed. Please don’t forget this. Love your families. Drop your bitterness or anything that entangles you and holds you back from the only one importance in life - Jesus. I have a hard time with these things - but I can only encourage you as I am being encouraged by His word. What a miracle that you even live and breathe. And we ask for more…..
I miss you all and as I fight through my own tears please know how much I love each of you and plead the Lord to see us all in His image and not what we have made ourselves to be. Salvation in Jesus is the only important thing on this earth….if you haven’t found it - I beg you to ask Him. Hug yourselves for me.