i volunteered to pick up a new patient. and, thinking it would be an easy add-on to my already bulging list, i picked her. or rather, she picked me.
i opened her chart to find a "doctor's orders" section already 1-inch thick. daunting. and while most patients are admitted for a miniature list of problems, hers spanned five pages & well-exceeded the longest five-paragraph essays i have in my repertoire.
while i likely should have welcomed such a learning opportunity, i did not. it wasn't for lack of interest, or rarity, or even compassion. mostly, it was because before i'd even met the patient, i already hated her problems. i might even surmise to say that i hated her.
i hated her rare genetic disorder--the one that could never be fixed & would make our efforts embarrasingly futile.
i decided i didn't like her parents, such selfishness they had keeping her alive all these years, trapped in a dying body.
i couldn't find the empathy for her delays, caused by genetic chromosomal abnormalities so severe that she would never walk, never talk, never communicate in an audible or interpretable way.
i was annoyed by all the "failures" listed next to her vital organs & processes: developmental failure, renal failure, liver failure. the first from her genes, the last from the 'food' we'd pumped into her veins, her PICC line, her stomach tube.
i was mad at God--wondering why he didn't just take her, quickly, painlessly; mad because we all had to watch her suffer.
and i was sickened by all this 'modern' medicine that we so proudly claimed was helping her.
...or was it?
and two hours later i walked into her room. mom attentive at her bedside, lovingly stroking her course black hair while the nurses cleaned the diarrhea that covered her lower half & was smeared about the sheets beneath her. the infection that raged in her colon was the culprit--another diagnosis to add to the list. she moaned. she moved. she breathed, occassionally. and all the while that loving, petite pretty mommy rested cheek to cheek with this emaciated, groaning patient--loving her the only way she knew how.
i'd only walked in to tell her we were shoving a catheter up her daughter's urethra to get the pee out of her atonic bladder--news delivered in the kindest way i could muster.
as luck would have it, i walked out 10 minutes later in tears, ashamed.
i'd missed the boat. overshot the target. fallen off the bandwagon. and i'd totally, misjudged.
praise songs to Jesus played in the background.
a Bible rested on the bedstand.
a prayer journal overturned on the meal tray.
they are a Psalm 139 believing family. a family who believes this little black haired, nonverbal, diarrhea covered little girl is a gift from Christ himself. who believes that He renews their strength every morning, every evening, and at every moment in between. they are a family who is learning the joy of suffering, finding His Will in sorrow, & navigating this difficult choice to let their daughter continue to live day-by-day. they are a family who believes that they weren't chosen because of what God knew they could give, but because of what they could receive through the fragile spirit of this little miracle.
and suddenly, somewhere between the bed and the hallway, i realized i've been right & wrong all along. i was right: modern medicine isn't helping her. in fact, in many ways, we're making her sick: aspiration pneumonia from the surgery, antibiotics from the pneumonia, colon infections from the antibiotics, diarrhea from the antibiotics, urine infection from the dirrhea...
but oh! how i was wrong in thinking that this is all about healing. i was wrong in thinking that i, we, medicine is the only one with something to offer.
afterall, the truth is that she's the one helping us. helping us learn. helping us grow. and somehow in the middle of the moans and the process of her problems, teaching us how to believe.
believe in miracles.
believe in hope.
believe in survival.
believe in Psalm 139.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
-Psalm 139: 13-17