Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Will to Live...

Last week I walked into the classroom for our daily debriefing after clinicals at the hospital with the students. It had been a hot morning and promised to be an even hotter afternoon, I stood at the front of the classroom, sweat running underneath my scrubs, looking forward to wrapping up our discussion and heading to a nice cool shower. The students seemed kind of uneasy and disgruntled somehow. I wasn't really sure why, just then one of my students raised his hand to ask a question. What he asked caught me off guard. He said there was a patient on the medical ward, a young woman who was refusing her medication, she would vomit it up every time they gave it to her and refused to let them give it to her IV, in fact, she was trying to leave the hospital. 

"Madame, can we force her to take the medication?"
Swiftly I responded, "no, it's her choice if she wants treatment or not. Did she say why she doesn't want it?" The rest of the students all started talking at once and responded chaotically,
"She wants to kill herself Madame, she wants to leave so she can go home and hang herself. She just found out she has HIV."

My heart sank, my mind flooded with all the care this young woman needed, not just physically, but spiritually and psychologically and I immediately thought back to all the suicide attempts and suicidal patients  I had taken care of in the ICU in the States, and how legally it voids their right to make decisions about their own care, as their goal is self-harm. So of course she had to stay and get treatment until we could get her the proper help she needed to keep her safe. I opened my mouth to say just that -----and I caught myself.

I'm not in the States anymore, I'm in Africa. In fact, I'm in a hospital in the jungle, and I don't have a clue how they handle these things here. Any experience I might have had got tossed out the window, and I went to ask my nursing colleagues who have years of experience out here.  The response; we have to go with what the family wants, we'll ask the chaplain to try to talk to her, but we can't force her to stay.

I went back to the students to give them the response, all the while my stomach churning within me. What do you mean we have to let her go? Don't we know she's at risk? We can't stop any of this? We have protocols, we have medicines for these sorts of things, and we're just going to stand by....? My thoughts rambled on and on.

I gave the students the information, they responded that they needed to pray that she would stay at the hospital, that God would touch her heart. We decided to pray right then, so I asked a couple students to lead us. I watched as student after student prayed for this young woman, then lost it as I watched one of our older students, a spiritual leader in his home village, slip out from behind his desk, get on his knees on that hard concrete floor, and cry out to God that He might intervene in the life of this young woman. 

He prayed with such faith. I felt almost ashamed. Because there I was wrestling and fighting with the situation inside myself because everything didn't fit into my nice scientific boxes, frustrated because I didn't have the medical resources that I have in the States to help this woman, frustrated because we couldn't make her stay. Yes, spiritual care was  an obvious component of nursing as I cared for these patients in the States, but there were other resources too- and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just that I was standing in the face of lacking those other resources and feeling like spiritual care just won't be enough. The conflict between my scientific-based culture and this spiritually-based culture was exploding before my eyes. In the end, where did my faith rest? Who really is the Great Physician. Who really is the creator God who formed this woman and knows her by name. Who is the One who brings healing. Is He enough?

I dismissed them for lunch, we left the classroom and instead of the students rushing off happily to their midday meal, they all stood dead in their tracks outside the Nursing School. The young woman was getting her stuff in a taxi to go home. She had refused to stay.

Is He enough? In your life, in my life, are we trusting only in Him even when we have other things to help us along the way? Do we trust Him to take care of all of it? I'm not for one minute suggesting we drop all medical resources, I believe and have seen God use and work through those valuable resources, but when they aren't there, do we believe God is enough? When we're working and money is flowing in and we know God takes care of us, are we trusting in only Him, or God plus the income. If that job is gone, is God still enough?

A few days later, this past Monday, I was busy around the hospital with the students, then suddenly the student who had been praying on his knees came up and found me. "Madame," he said, "that young woman, she has come back. She is alive. She wants help."

Is He enough? 

* This young woman is not yet a believer. I can't help but thinking God spared her life and brought her back here to draw her to Himself. Please pray that her eyes and her heart would be open to Him.