Anything happens in the hospital. Anything can and eventually does.
I was paged overhead. Unusual because the pager was on my hip, active and waiting for a command. When I called the operator, I got a vague description of a family in need of support. I walked the Longest Hallway Ever from my office to the ED. I searched and found the charge nurse who hurriedly pointed to the family room as she was dealing with multiple tasks. As I moved towards the room, I whispered to another nurse, "patient's name?"
I arrived in the family room to find the charge nurse from the previous shift in his street clothes, comforting a woman obviously distraught by her loved one's status. How very like the staff here. Compassion winning out over the time clock. The needs of others taking precedence over their own.
The story I got in fits and jerks from the crying woman and the charge nurse was that the patient, her cousin, a young guy in his thirties, collapsed at work. Something very bad was happening to his heart. He was currently in the cath(catheterization) lab but would be transferred to a major hospital in the area if/when he stabilized. When the nurse left, transferring caring responsibility to me, the woman quickly informed me that she was "not religious." I reassured her that I was there for moral support, not to push an agenda. I wandered in and out of the room trying to give her both space and support.
About 20 minutes later, her son arrived, who seemed just the person she needed. Besides being frightened for her cousin's life, the woman was overwhelmed trying to contact his parents and significant other were on opposite sides of the country in different states. Intense discussion ensued about who would contact them and how much to share. "I don't want to freak them out."
When the team from the receiving hospital arrived, the specialist didn't stop to talk but went right to work. It was nearly an hour before I was asked to escort the family to the hall outside of the lab for an update. The doctor came out and told them in no uncertain terms what was happening and what she was doing. She did not sugar coat that the young man may not survive. "Anything significant I should know." The woman quickly replied that her sister had died recently of heart disease, not to mention her father and other family members. Her fear was based on past experience. Her grief was palatable. "I need to get back to your cousin. Your job is to pray. Pray for him and pray for me that I can help." She disappeared back into the lab.
"Your job is to pray." The non-religious woman made no response to that directive. She sobbed into her son's chest as he tried to reassure her. I wondered what she made of the doctor's instruction.
"Your job is to pray." As the family grappled with the reality of this horrific situation, I complied with the doctor's orders. I prayed for the patient, the doctor, the team, and the family. Not that I don't often do that, but this seemed more urgent as no one else seemed capable. My job was to pray. I thought of Job who prayed and sacrificed for his adult children, "in case they forgot."
Eventually they rolled past with the critically ill patient. His cousin was given a few seconds to kiss him on the forehead before they swooped out the door to the ambulance. The woman nearly collapsed with soft wailing. Her son held her, murmured reassurances, kissed her head and led her out of the hospital.
I was left alone in the hall, praying.
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