May 7, 2012

Adopting Monica

En route to the call I pulled out my phone and Googled the diagnosis we got from dispatch as my partner drove. I’d never heard of NDMA encephalopathy. Wikipedia said it’s a rare autoimmune disease, typically affecting young women, often associated with ovarian tumors. The onset is usually gradual, with altered mental status, seizures and eventually coma. The long term prognosis is good if properly diagnosed and treated.

Monica lay in bed, her facial muscles in a constant state of twitching. She was unable to respond to me. Her father and mother introduced themselves and began to tell me about her condition. Monica’s father is a paramedic instructor from a small town in Texas. They brought her to the Mayo hospital in Phoenix because it’s one of the only hospitals in the Southwest with the ability to diagnose and treat her condition.

As I shook hands with her mother, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful necklace draped around her neck. Dangling from the necklace was a gold cross.

As people wandered in and out of the room, her nurse gave me report. From an envelope, she pulled a stack of papers that were stapled together and handed them to me.

"Here”, she said, “You need to give these to the people who will be taking care of her where she’s going”.

I asked what they were. She explained that for the past 4 months, all of her nurses in the ICU had been recording every significant event Monica had gone through. They took turns writing notes and compiled them into a journal to be kept with her during the course of her stay. As I read the notes, I smiled. They recorded all of her procedures, every seizure she had and every change in mental status.

I noticed that Monica’s finger nails were painted. It looked fresh. An attractive pink stripe pattern adorned each nail, except for the middle finger on her left hand, which was bare.

“Who did her nails?” I asked.

“We all did!” one of the nurses replied. The room had quickly filled with nurses, techs and others who wanted to see her off.

“I see you left one finger without polish…nice touch.”

“Of course....that’s for the pulse ox probe.”

Thick nail polish can impede the pulse oximitry sensor, which makes those annoying alarms go off. So it’s wise to remove the nail polish on one finger. They thought of everything. I can’t recall ever seeing a group of nurses who became so involved in the personal life of their patient. It was like they’d adopted her as a sister.

We carefully moved Monica to the gurney and got her covered and belted in for the trip. The loving people from Mayo bid her farewell as we rolled her to the elevator. Her mother was riding with us. Inside the ambulance, I handed her one of my cards and asked if I could pray for her daughter. She was overjoyed. “By all means, please do!”

I closed my eyes and placed my hand on her shoulder and declared life over her. I immediately saw in the spirit, Monica sitting up with her eyes open talking to her mother, as if nothing was wrong. I commanded sickness to leave and for her immune system to be healed. We both prayed for this lively young woman trapped in a broken body.

I told her mother what I saw and suggested that it probably indicated a good outcome. I shared with her some of the visions I’ve seen during prayer and a few of the dreams I’ve had about my patients.

She smiled and told me that the nurses at Mayo had been having dreams about Monica ever since she arrived. In the dreams, they would talk to her as if she was perfectly healthy. They believed the dreams indicated that she was able to understand everything they said, in spite of how things looked outwardly. They also believed that she would recover and have no long - term complications. The dreams were one reason why they had such a keen interest in Monica and why they treated her like a sister.

We arrived and transferred her to the bed. Her mother and I took turns giving report, but it didn’t take long. The nurses were familiar with Monica and her condition. She’d been admitted there for 8 days in February, but she became unstable and had to return to Mayo. They’d also fallen in love with her and anxiously waited for her return. As the nurses fawned over their newest patient and long lost friend, I washed my hands and quietly left the room.

I love the way that God orchestrates His plans; bringing strangers together to provide hope and healing through something as simple as a dream.

This call gave me hope for our healthcare system. It was refreshing to meet people who sincerely cared about their patient and all of her needs. I meet a lot of people who aren’t able to show genuine compassion. Because of that, many of the calls I go on don’t have a happy ending.

I seldom share those stories. I prefer to focus on the positive. Unfortunately, the sad stories far outnumber the happy ones. You don’t get a true cross section of the kind of things we see. And if I’m going to be transparent, I owe you an occasional glimpse at the darker side of the job.

The next story I’ll share will be quite different from this one.

- till then

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