my patients need it. Or maybe I need it for them. Can you hope for someone else? I think so.
My first little boy looked up at me with cracked, dry lips and angry, sad, pain-filled eyes. His mommy kept stepping out of the room to cry, then come back in to offer what support she had for him. “It’s so hard,” she said. “First the refugee camp…we didn’t have food every day. And the attacks. Then we come here, and he–”
I administered the injection meant to boost his dwindling white cells, gave him pain medication for the long bone pain that inevitably comes with the cancer, wanly smiled at their pastor that had come to visit and was oh, so glad he was there to offer the kind of support that I just didn’t have the time to offer. Or just couldn’t figure out the right way to offer it, no matter how hard I tried and wanted to.
My second child, five months old, sat on one side of the floor in her carseat, bottle propped next to her, in a dirty used-to-be-white onsie stained with spit-up and bottle drool. She was set aside, just about forgotten. I picked up her seven pound, 12 ounce body and held her close, because no one else would. Child Protection will come soon….but is there any more hope for her than that?
I forced a tiny tube down the nose of my third patient today. A little six-month-old, who escaped death by a hair’s breadth multiple times in his short life, and now needs a tube threaded down in to his stomach because somewhere along the lines of fighting the pneumonia, the infections and the IV tubes he never had the time or the energy to learn how to eat. Alarms beeping, baby crying, mom trying to comfort….and my hands shaking as I hook the monitors back up and spend the rest of the night worrying about how he is.
I try to fight for my patients, try to have hope for them. But in the utterly terrifying sadness of cancer, the despair of neglect and the gnawing worry of wondering if I made the right clinical decisions and if I really made the gravity of the situation clear enough to the doctor, sometimes I don’t know how.
I don’t know if the heaviness in my heart is sadness, pain, anger, anxiety…or just the love that causes and encompasses it all. I pray for the love of Jesus to fill my heart for my patients like these, so that I can fight for them practically as well as through prayer. But sometimes, some nights like these, it seems impossible….
“Speaking of hope,” Jesus says, “I have it. It is found in me. I love you, I love them, and my love is NOT despairing or heavy or angry or sad….it is just love. My yoke is easy and my burden is light….ask me and I will help you to carry them. And I, the Great Shepherd, will carry you.” (Romans 8:38-39, 15:13, Isaiah 46:3-4, Matthew 11:28-30, Ezekiel 34:11-16, John 10:11, 14, 13:1).