I read a story (Second Chance) about a surgeon who was preparing a patient for surgery. Although the patient believed he had something fairly routine, the surgeon knew that his condition would most likely end his life in the next 24 hours. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she was called to take care of other patients and the man died before she had a chance to ask him if he'd thought about death or made plans for eternity. She was under a load of guilt about it until she learned that at one of the PACU nurses had a discussion with him before he died. That conversation was about the patient's trust in the sovereign plans of a Creator he knew very well. The man was more than ready to step into eternity.
When faced with a situation in which we know or strongly suspect a patient may be stepping into eternity shortly, do we have a right to discuss it with them? Is it ethically wrong to ask them if they would like prayer or if they've been saved? Should we talk about things that have no relevance in eternity, or remind them of the certainty we all face in accounting for how we have lived?
I've had many calls and conversations with people where I felt that I should have shared something with them about God's plan for their future, and perhaps their eternal destination, but I bailed out and said nothing only to regret it later. How many times do we get a second chance to speak to someone about God?
I saw a young woman on a call who was suffering from severe neck pain secondary to a car accident several years earlier. She tried the usual treatments and found little relief. It's these people in particular that my heart goes out to; the ones who've tried just about everything under the sun, and they are no better off, physically, emotionally or financially.
The engine company arrived before we did. The patient's mother called 911 because she wanted advice on whether it was safe for her to go to the hospital by car or if an ambulance was needed. They advised her it would be safe to go by car, so we were cancelled and returned to quarters.
I wanted to pray for this young woman, but I sensed it would cause problems If I did it under those circumstances. What I needed was a second chance with a different setting. God provided just that.
An hour later we were at the same hospital with her. As I walked through the halls I noticed the patient's mother in one of the treatment rooms. I knocked and went in. She remembered me. I told her I'd been hoping (I actually prayed) for a second chance to talk to them. I shared a few stories about people I'd seen healed and asked if I could pray for her. They said yes, and were grateful I went through the trouble to find them.
I don't know if she was healed. I gave her mother a business card with the website address on it. Maybe we'll hear about her testimony some day. Whether she is healed or not, she knows God is thinking about her, and that He loves her. I always make a point to slip in some of those facts when I pray for healing.
It's my conviction that we should speak when the Spirit prompts or provokes us to. I believe it is proper for us to discuss God and eternity if we ask and patient agrees to it. But don't be discouraged if you miss your first opportunity; you might get a second one. Sometimes God has other people waiting in the wings to say or do something that you weren't able to. His ways are truly amazing.