Sometimes when I go to work, I wonder why I'm there. I wonder how on earth God can use me when all I'm doing is sticking people with needles and changing dressings on central lines. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. But sometimes I wonder how much purpose I have. Then, I meet patients like her.
I was orienting someone new to our IV team. It was evening shift, and I was feeling like I was just about at the end of my patience. The person I was orienting (we'll call her Felicia) was having a hard time. I was explaining things over and over, and they were just not getting through. So Felicia and I were called to a room to access a port-a-cath, which she had done before with another IV team member (click here and scroll down a bit if you care to know more about port-a-caths and how they're accessed). Outside of the patient's room, I reviewed her on all of the supplies we would need because it's hard to remember it all sometimes. I walked her through the process before we went in, and I hoped it would go well.
The patient (we'll call her Mrs. Ashwood) had asked for her port-a-cath needle to be changed because someone had used a really long needle, and it was sticking too far out of her skin. She was afraid she might bump it on something in the night. As we talked to her, we discovered that several IV team members had tried to access it the day before, and it took multiple attempts. My heart sank. I didn't really want to let Felicia try, but I asked Mrs. Ashwood if it would be alright if she did it while I supervised. She said she didn't mind at all.
Felicia got out her equipment, and very soon after beginning, contaminated her sterile gloves without realizing it. I stopped her, gave her some new gloves, and the process continued. To make a long story shorter, Felicia missed on the first try, but Mrs. Ashwood said she was ok with Felicia trying again. So we trotted off to get more supplies, and I made use of the time to coach Felicia some more. My patience was wearing even thinner, and I really just wanted to access the port myself, but I knew that Felicia needed to try again.
When we returned to Mrs. Ashwood's room, I began talking with her while Felicia got her things ready. She began to open up to me about why she was in the hospital and what she was going through. She had cancer. It had been gone for a while, but just recently they thought they had seen some spots on her liver. The doctors had gone back and forth between being certain it was nothing and telling her that it was a metastasis of her old cancer. Finally, they decided that she had advanced mets cancer in her liver and elsewhere. She was having to make decisions about whether or not to undergo more treatments and which doctors or hospital to go to. She confessed that she wasn't even sure if it was worth it because her prognosis was not good. As she spoke to me, I listened and also told her a little bit about my grandfather and what he had gone through when he had cancer. I nearly began to cry as I talked to her because I realized how similar their stories were.
As Felicia and I finished what we needed to do-- nearly an hour later-- I felt impressed to pray with her. I asked Mrs. Ashwood if that would be alright, and she said she would love that. So I prayed. For peace, for wisdom, but most of all for God's Presence and comfort. When I finished she was crying. She told me that she and her husband had been missionaries for 12 years, and we talked about missions and life in other countries. By the time I left the room, I was nearly in tears. I was amazed at her attitude and positive spirit, and I had told her so when I was in the room. And I was humbled that God had seen fit for us to be in her room long enough for me to be able to help her find comfort and peace in God's hands. It was a good reminder for me that God still knows what He's doing-- even when I'm frustrated and impatient.
Experiences like this are the ones I live for.