Friday, February 5, 2016

A Week in the Hospital Day 7: Monday – Psalm 62

Last week (January 26-February 2, 2016), I ended up in the hospital. Something simple spiraled out of control. While in the hospital, I kept up with the daily reading of psalms that I’ve been practicing since the first of the year. The psalms I read were chosen by the Presbyterian Daily Prayer Lectionary. The psalms are sent to my e-mail every morning and I often read them on my phone, then again in my bible. These psalms helped to frame my experience. The following is an account of my hospital stay for friends and family who want to know what happened. [NOTE: This contains some graphic depictions of medical problems. No pictures, just words.]

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For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall never be shaken. (62:1-2)

The doctors all checked in on me. Everything was looking good. My blood pressure was elevated, but they hadn’t yet found bacteria in my blood—the surest sign of infection outside of the TEE. My white blood cell levels had barely ticked up, a possible sign, but nothing sure. Still, they wanted to treat me with a six-week course of antibiotics. Three hours a day for six weeks. They would have to insert a PICC line, a semi-permanent IV threaded through a vein in my arm with the tip almost touching my heart. There were risks, the doctors assured, though minimal. I was wary, since my body had already betrayed me once.

I spoke to my family again. I heard testimonies of the people in my family who had all survived unscathed from a PICC line. Still, I was anxious. The doctors and nurses could tell. My blood pressure was so high they asked if I wanted to take medicine for anxiety. I refused. I did not want more medicines than necessary. I had already been on two antibiotics daily to knock out my pneumonia. They were going to put me on two other antibiotics. I did not want any more medicine.

I wanted to go home. They assured me that I could probably leave soon after the PICC line was inserted. All of my doctors had told me that I was doing fine. Some had wondered why I was not home yet. I missed my kids. I missed Sarah.

I was faced with a choice. Get the PICC line to eradicate a potential infection. If the infection was not real, I might never know. I could endure the antibiotics. OR Don’t get the PICC line. Run the risk of dying from heart failure or undergoing surgery in a few weeks or months. I chose the PICC line.

I kept praying the lines of that day’s psalm: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

God sent me an angel; not a winged creature, but a messenger of good news dressed in scrubs. My PICC line nurse was truly a godsend. We ended up talking throughout the whole procedure. She told me her life story. She told me about her nephew who is a priest in Australia. She told me about her grandfather who was miraculously rescued after gambling away his life in China. My pastoral instincts took over. I entered a place of deep listening. As I listened to her, my own anxiety faded. As I attended to her, my concerns fled. My breathing slowed. My heart rate slowed. I experienced no pain during the procedure. At the end, my shaking body stilled to a soul waiting in silence. When they took my blood pressure an hour later, it was the lowest it had been in days.

The peace didn’t last long. Our insurance company was responding slowly enough that they could not determine if I could afford all the treatments. We had decided that I should receive the treatments in a special facility, since we had two little kids at home and it would be difficult for me to manage. The special facility needed the approval of my insurance. Sarah and I were both devastated. I just wanted to be home.

Still, through that sleepless night, I clung to the gift of peace amidst storm, of silence and stillness in the presence of my rock and salvation.


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