Tuesday, December 21, 2010

sobering experience

yesterday at work, i was on the ICU step down unit and i had 2 patients, which was really nice because it wasn't technically a full load. i didn't even have to do an admission, either. i had a post-op pt and a pt i had cared for a few weeks previously. his condition had deteriorated severely and it was quite shocking to see his decline. the gentleman had liver disease and was dying slowly. he had multiple infections, hypothermia, low blood pressure, and multi-organ failure. his breathing was labored probably due to ineffective gas exchange. he could not communicate because of the encephalopathy. despite all of this, the family still wanted all measures taken to resuscitate him should his heart stop or airway fail. i don't judge them for their decision; it's just hard to see a person actively dying and denial and fear regarding the inevitable.

my other patient had bladder cancer and had an operation that would change his life. his pain had been uncontrolled for days, but on my shift, through the hard work of nurses before me, his pain was adequately controlled. the wife was stressed out about all that was going on, and rightfully so to some extent. but she had a cross on, so i knew i had an easy in to a spiritual conversation. so, i asked if i could pray for them. they eagerly accepted. while they think i may have touched them by praying, truly i was the one who was blessed. i all too often forget that in and of myself, i cannot fix my patients. sure, i can help control their pain and give them tools to help cope with various aliments, but, really, they need to be fixed spiritually, and i have no real control over that. all i can do is love on them and show them Jesus in whatever way i can. 
(side note: the wife pulled me aside later and told me she used to be jewish; now she is a messianic jew. i thought i might freak her out if i told her i was a gentile for jews for Jesus, so i refrained; however, it still made my day!).

i helped out with another patient. this woman had been in and out of the hospital for years. while i don't know her full story, i know that she is paralyzed from the waste down, was expressively aphasic, and recently broke her leg, causing excruciating pain. she was probably my height, but weighed 100lbs; it took little strength to turn and reposition her. my heart broke for this woman who was, in the true sense of the word, helpless. i did not take the opportunity to pray for her, and i can honestly say i regret it fully. she needed hope and needed to know that there was someOne who could help her more than she could ever help herself.

to say the least, work has been holistically challenging. but i am glad for it. my pride is squashed over and over again, and my selfishness is made evident. while nurses are often proud and haughty, it seems wrong on so many levels. we should be moved by the difficulties that we are privy to. our class verse in nursing school was micah 6:8, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" may this be the theology that guides my nursing practice. may i learn to do justice, to love and act kindly, and to walk in humility with the Father as i have the honor of serving people.

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