Mar 13, 2012

Water of Life

I was never was a big water-drinker before I moved to Phoenix. But my first summer here taught me a quick lesson about the harsh life in the arid desert.

Drink or die.

The scorching heat of the southwest makes dehydration a constant threat. Most hospitals stock refrigerators with bottles of water for fire and EMS crews. Some of my co-workers bring gallon jugs of water to work. You might think it would be impossible to drink too much water living in the desert. And if you did, you’d be mistaken.

We arrived on scene in a nice neighborhood in Mesa. The curious neighbors stared as we pulled the gurney to the front door, which was ajar. They were expecting us.

The caregiver met me with a stack of papers and explained that our patient had been drinking too much and according to their protocol, needed to be seen in the emergency room.

It’s not hard to find someone who tips a few too many beers, but this wasn’t the case with our patient. He’d been drinking too much water. In fact, the home we were at was a group home for people with a disorder called polydipsia; an obsession with drinking to much water.

I’d only met one such patient, previous to this call. A few years ago, we had a frequent flyer who went from hospital to hospital being treated for her dangerous water obsession.



Polydipsia can be a life threatening problem. An obsession with drinking too much water causes the body to eliminate water continuously. The mechanism for eliminating water involves eliminating sodium, because “water follows sodium”. As more water is eliminated, the body’s supply of sodium becomes depleted, resulting in hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia is a serious electrolye imbalance that if untreated, can lead to death. It’s for this reason that patients with polydypsia must have their water intake carefully monitored.

The group home has a set of guidelines in place that allow them to weigh clients several times a day. If a client is found to have gained weight suddenly, it’s assumed they’ve been drinking too much water and they’re required to be evaluated at a hospital. Our patient stepped outside for a cigarette and paid a quick visit to the convenience store on the corner where he promptly downed a couple of 32 ounce bottles of water. When he returned, the caretaker weighed him and found that he’d gained 6% of his morning body weight.

He was busted.

We got him loaded and headed toward the hospital. There wasn’t much for me to do except write my report and monitor his vitals. He wanted someone to talk to so I listened as I wrote my report.

His thoughts were a bit random at first, but eventually he stumbled on the idea that God might be mad at him for something. I took advantage of the opening and shared a few of my thoughts.

“I don’t think God is as mad as a lot of people think. He understands our problems.”

He replied, “Yeah, He knows us pretty well, doesn’t he? He sees our struggles. Maybe He isn’t mad at us….. Jesus knows. He’s been in our shoes.”

“Jesus is our friend”, I replied.

With a profound peace in his voice he said, “Yeah…..Jesus understands”.

I was impressed with his understanding of the nature of Jesus. He may not be seminary trained, but his theology wasn’t bad. He is thirsty, but the physical thirst he has only suggests a deeper thirst....

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink...he who believes in Me, from his innermost being will flow springs and rivers of living water.

We arrived at the hospital and checked in at the desk. He was promptly put in a wheelchair and rolled into the waiting room, where dozens of other theologians pondered the nature of God and the meaning of life.

I hope they understand that God isn’t mad at them for being a little messed up. That’s just part of life. And if that’s all it took for God to be mad, we’d all be in trouble. Thankfully, God is in a pretty good mood.

And He likes us more than we realize.

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