It was around 3PM when I got the call that I had another patient on the way. Ouch. By this point in the day, I had already been juggling a team of five patients for 8 hours. Two of these patients were quite sick and needed a lot of my attention. The other three were all at varying stages of the discharge process. Let’s just suffice it to say that things were incredibly chaotic at that point in my day. And that chaos just got complicated by learning that my new patient was actually coming in for alcohol withdrawal.
I’ve written before about how we all dread hearing those words. These patients usually arrive on our unit quite upset, in pain, and needing a lot of attention right away. Also, withdrawal is a complicated process, so we also know that the patient’s condition can go from seemingly fine, to being in ICU on a ventilator in a matter of a few hours. We see a lot of these patients on our unit, and we’ve all witnessed how quickly things can turn incredibly ugly. Yes, we have.
So, when I got the next call that this new patient had actually arrived on the unit, I headed to the room to get started, but I have to admit, my steps were heavy with dread.
When I walked in, though, my gaze met the clearest, most beautiful blues eyes I had ever seen. This patient was sitting straight up in the bed wearing a hospital gown and an incredibly genuine smile. Really, it was joyful. She greeted me confidently, and asked how my day was going. Yes, how MY day was going.
I was trying to cover my surprise as I sat down and she looked me straight in the eyes and simply said, “I need your help”.
For some reason, those four words erased everything else about the day. Gone was the chaos, gone was the tension. The weariness … instantly forgotten. All distractions ceased and it was just the two of us in the world at that moment. I had one of those “heart-squeezes” that told me this moment was significant.
This person was asking for my help. And I knew that God had sent her to ME. On purpose.
Those clear, blue eyes clouded with tears as she began telling her story. Things had been rough for a long time. She had been drinking too much, and basically had “screwed everything up”. She had lost everything and had been “couch surfing” for many months now. But she had even screwed that up because now she was living in her car. In Orlando’s summertime heat.
As I’m listening to her, I couldn’t help but think that there’s probably a lot more to her story than she’s telling me. This probably wasn’t the first time she had reached this point, and it likely won’t be the last. And she probably wasn’t the only victim of her downward spiral, either. I’ve personally seen the pain of loved ones caught up in the ripple effects of stories like these. It’s pretty unforgettable.
So, as different as this patient appeared to me at first glance, I knew that chances were great that she wasn’t so different after all.
Then I looked at the chair next to the bed. On it laid the most neatly-packed suitcase I had ever seen. I felt God speaking volumes to me at that sight.
He was showing me that I was becoming jaded. I had been allowing the pressures of my day – as well as my own personal weariness – to cloud out hope.
I was looking into those incredible blue eyes, but I was only seeing the others who had come before her – the ones who hadn’t yet been able to break this cycle of addiction.
I realized I had allowed myself to somehow go from being charmed by our initial greeting, to automatically clumping this patient into the category of being just another sad story. So … maybe this patient really isn’t any different from the others.
But what if she IS?
What if the precise folding of every single item in that suitcase holds great intention? What if those clear blue eyes and genuine smile are radiating newfound strength and determination? What if something’s distinctly changed inside?
What if we really CAN help this one?
What if none of that even matters because we’re called to love people where they need us? Not where we THINK they should be, but truly where they are … yes, right where they are?
What if God is saying that it’s His job to fix problems, not mine? And it’s His wisdom that determines when? Isn’t it OUR job to just love His people through it all? Even if it’s over and over again?
What if He’s telling me to never lose hope? What if He’s reminding me that it’s MY hope that may point others to theirs?
What if He’s speaking all this to me through beautiful blue eyes and a little black suitcase?
And what if He’s telling me that this patient was sent to me not because she needed MY help, but because I so very desperately needed HERS?
Thanks for growing with me. ❤
“Where then is my hope – who can see hope for me?” (Job 17:15)