This week I find myself at Harborview Medical Center again. In order to get to my sweet patient I have to travel straight to the Neuro ICU waiting area and then across a center bridge to the east side of the hospital, over to the CICU. This is a tremendous walk down memory lane for me, especially coming in here, at first, on a Friday night, in January, walking into a situation that I was fairly unfamiliar with. I’ve never worked with an amputee before and this situation is very special. My special patient is the mother of a very dear friend of mine and we’ve never been able to meet face to face, until last night (Friday, January 14, 2011), just hours after emergency amputation of her right leg, at the knee joint. We’ve been able to speak on the phone & have a great rapport but our original plans to meet were abruptly changed Friday morning.
Originally Miss Arlene (72) had asked if I could pick her up on Friday and bring her into Harborview for a Stress Test which was ordered by her surgeon to insure that she was, indeed, healthy enough for right leg amputation, at the knee. I was looking forward to meeting Miss Arlene at her home and accompanying her to this appointment, meeting her doctor and being able to be there with her throughout the Stress Test. As I was readying my vehicle to leave I received a phone call from her roommate that she’d had to call for an ambulance to take Miss Arlene straight to Harborview. She’d had a painful night, was having trouble breathing and apparently her leg was swelling. Last I’d spoken with Arlene she’d been in very good spirits & told me she was feeling very comfortable heading towards this surgery. As I got the news that she’d been taken via ambulance I felt so bad for her, almost as if I’d let her down. I wished I’d have been able to have been with her that morning, so she wasn’t alone.
Having experienced the wait time in the Harborview ER waiting room, I decided to wait two hours and then head down to Harborview to be with Arlene once she cleared the initial stages of the ER assessment. I phoned her daughter to tell her what was happening and then headed downtown when the time came. As I drove through to the University District I received a call from Arlene’s daughter, Cindy, telling me that they’d just taken Arlene in for emergency amputation of her right leg, so I turned around to head back home, feeling like the second ship of the day had just sank. Arlene had had to go through the Emergency Room and face emergency surgery completely alone.
While I was turning around, I received a call from Florida with some good news from another friend whom we’ve been praying for, letting me know that Natalie, who had had a lumpectomy earlier on Friday morning had come through surgery with flying colors and that her doctor had just told their family that she was now Breast Cancer free. What a tremendous relief to feel at a moment when my worries for Arlene were rising in the pit of my stomach & my guilt for her being so alone throughout the day were eating me alive. Natalie’s husband, Robert, and I have been friends since Jr. High and over the last few years she, like Cindy, has become one of my most precious friends. Many days have come and gone where these ladies are the reason I get up in the morning. They mean the World to me, so to hear from Robert that Natalie is now cancer free was absolute music to my ears! Things were going to be alright for Arlene too, I just needed to keep praying!
As I headed home on I5 the thought crossed my mind that perhaps Arlene’s roommate was sitting in the Harborview waiting room alone & I’d just turned around leaving her there without anyone to sit with. And my heart just sank to the ground. I don’t ever want to be “that Pastor” who leaves anyone sitting alone, EVER. I quickly called their home phone and left a message for her roommate thanking her for calling the ambulance for Arlene earlier in the morning, on behalf of both Cindy & myself; & telling her that I was sincerely sorry if she was sitting at Harborview right at that moment alone. I left my number and asked her to call me as soon as she received the message. I had spoken to Cindy just minutes earlier and she thought it was probably just a 50/50 chance that Arlene’s roommate was at the hospital, so not to worry, just go ahead and leave the message for now. I was going to head back to the hospital in a few hours once Arlene was in recovery and I’d touch base with both of them at that time, if she was there with Arlene.
Soon enough I got a call from Cindy and the surgery was done…and Miss Arlene was doing well. No sooner was I loaded back up heading to Harborview & Miss Arlene was already in the CICU. Kicking myself once again that I was enroute and not there, I jammed it down I5 to Harborview and got to Arlene as soon as I could without speeding. And there’s always that moment in time when you take a deep breath, sit back and scratch your head…wondering to yourself, as much time as I spend with God each and every day, why on earth have I wasted energy feeling guilty, worrying and fretting after I’ve spent so much time in prayer, giving God this very situation? Where was my faith today? Over 200 people were praying along with me and I was worrying? Really?
I don’t know if it was the building that I was walking into Harborview, where my late husband lost his life or the concern that now that I’m “officially” a Pastor I could do this wrong, despite having done this same ministry forever, or what exactly got me, but I didn’t walk in faith yesterday. I didn’t exercise it or perhaps I didn’t want to take it for granted. I’m not sure which. But please know this, worrying is always a waste of time. Loving & exercising Faith, those are never a waste of your time. When you give a situation to God, trust Him fully, because He’s got it covered!
When I arrived Arlene was very groggy and had no memory of the day. Even today, she has no real memory of yesterday. She recognized me every time she woke up, by my voice and then eventually, by my face. As Cindy described it after we spoke on the phone & I told her what was happening, it was like Groundhogs Day. She would drift off and then wake up again suddenly every 15-20 minutes as if it was a completely new day. She thought perhaps she was at the library, or at the clinic, or at the library at the clinic. She was quite certain that she was going home soon, so please do put the side of this darned bed down. She was not going to sit with her back on the back of the bed, thank you very much and when she was falling over to the side, do not push me! When we would try to wake her to resituate her, she very sternly told us young people to kindly not raise our voices at her. She had us in fits of giggles and put us all in our places in one fell swoop! But she had absolutely no pain and her roommate finally returned my call in the evening. She hadn’t come to the hospital at all, so she hadn’t been waiting in the hospital alone. And again, Arlene was rushed to the ER and then rushed into surgery very swiftly. When I talked to her today and told her how sorry I was that I wasn’t with her yesterday & that she had to be alone, she said “Well, how do you know that I didn’t want to be alone? Guilt is just silly, it doesn’t change the outcome and I’m just fine. Feeling guilty isn’t going to help you or me so I wouldn’t waste my time with that. Maybe I wanted to be alone going into surgery, did you ever consider that?” No, I said. I didn’t consider that because I didn’t want you to face your surgery alone. I wanted you to have someone with you who loved you, who could pray with you and comfort you. And she smiled “But today I don’t remember yesterday and the surgery is done, so I don’t have to think about having the surgery next Thursday.” And she kept smiling and looking into my eyes as she squeezed my hand. So again, when you give it to God, trust Him with it.
Arlene’s nursing staff is absolutely spectacular. Gail, who was her nurse Friday night and today, is just exemplary; an extraordinarily beautiful human being. A woman I’d like to have the time to know better. She is a lover of souls and it just shines in her, she has truly listened to God in her calling in life and has followed that calling perfectly. She has a wonderful rapport with the other nurses & staff and truly loves her patients. We were able to talk quite a bit today & share many similarities in our lives, as I say, I would love to have the time to get to know her better!
We always pray that those who are caring for our patients will be just like Gail, but to see those prayers answered with my own eyes, was truly amazing. We pray for people all over the world and so it’s become more rare recently for me to be able to minister to those on our prayer list in person. I wish this wasn’t the case, but as the ministry has grown, the prayer requests that we’ve received have spanned the globe and we will, of course, never turn down a prayer request. But as Critical Outreach Ministries is in this transition and balancing both local & global cases, I am finding myself inside hospitals less often. This is just a transition, as the goal of this ministry is for me to be in hospitals every week and I’m determined to see those goals reached; sitting at home in front of my computer is not where God wants me to be. As Gail has followed her calling & is making such a remarkable difference in the lives of her patients each and every day; I too must follow mine in order to see the same results.
Because of the extraordinary care Arlene has received, she is being moved out of the CICU and into a private hospital room this evening. Just one day after having her leg amputated and she is 72 years old. Please pray for Arlene’s continued recovery, she’s doing remarkably well to date. She’s just an amazing lady, I really wish you could all meet her. Her daughter Cindy is well on her way to Washington and has had a safe journey so far. We are praying for travel mercies for her as she has many mountain passes to travel through in order to get here and flying is not an option for her, so please keep her in your prayers.
As I left Arlene this evening, she held my hand and I kissed her sweet face goodbye. She held me very tightly for a long time. She had so many kind words to share & stories to tell me before I left, it almost broke my heart to come home. If we weren’t celebrating my daughter’s birthday tonight, I think I would have stayed with her. I got a huge hug from Gail as I headed out and though I know it’s a step up for Arlene to be moved to her own room, I did ask if she could just stay there, with Gail. And though Gail understood what I meant, she knows that Arlene’s health is too good to stay in the CICU. So my prayer tonight is that Miss Arlene will not be lonely in her new private room at Harborview and that I’ll have more than an hour or two to spend with her tomorrow and Monday. Please say an extra prayer for Arlene, Cindy and Natalie tonight and take a moment to pause and think about the people in your life. There are dozens of people that you know personally who need your prayers tonight. Of those dozens, I would ask you to search your heart and narrow it down to just 5 people who really need your prayers and spend just 5 minutes in prayer for each one of those people as well. You will get so much out of praying for these people than you could ever possibly imagine. And there are many cliché comments that I could add here that would fit. Life isn’t about the amount of breath’s you take, it’s about the moments that take your breath away. It’s better to give, than to receive. A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. And so on. The bottom line is that we’re not here, on this earth, to take on an air of self entitlement; to gather as much as we possibly can for ourselves. There is nothing we can collect here, that we can take with us, aside from that which we give away. That which we give of ourselves.
1 Corinthian 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Critical Outreach Ministries is unlike any other. We aren’t here to preach, we, quite simply, walk the walk. We endeavor to walk the walk, just like the wonderful people we come across, the ones who inspire us along this journey, like Arlene’s nurse, Gail. Truly authentic people, with pure hearts, are a rare find in this World. Integrity is hard to come by. I pray every day that when people encounter this ministry, they walk away having felt that they met and encountered a “Gail” in their life. I pray that the ministry I provide & the prayers our Prayer Warriors pray each day brings forth an authentic ministry. I pray that those I am able to touch find me authentic, of pure heart, integrity and a rarity in this World. My prayer is that you will support me in prayer to insure that I am accountable to these qualities.