Post Title: Reaching for God in the Hard Places, Part 2

The Comfort of Help

Having my cousin and his wife with me at the hospital comforted me, especially when two days later, the doctor gave me some more bad news. “We think it’s best to transfer Mike to a specialty hospital. This one is a step down from Intensive Care.”

“I … I know he has congestive heart failure and kidney problems …” I was trying to process his condition. A step down from ICU! “Is this because of the sepsis? I thought they resolved that problem.”

The doctor sounded weary. “We have a team of doctors assigned to his case. A nephrologist. A pulmonologist. A cardiologist. And an infectious specialist. We don’t know why he is so lethargic.  We have not yet identified what caused the sepsis …”

I couldn’t speak. I knew if I did, the tears would come. I felt like a wet rag that needed wrung out.

“The real danger is … your brother is very sick. His numbers are very high. The kidney function is low. The nephrologist believes…”

I couldn’t absorb his words. They just ran together.

Nancy noticed. “Sit down, Amy.” She took charge, something she did so well.  Ron, you take Amy to work so she’s not late. I’ll stay to get the discharge papers and help Mike get settled into his new place.” She turned to me. “We have everything under control. Just focus on work if you can.”

I went into Mike’s room to say goodbye. “Love you, Mike.”

“Love you,” he said back before closing his eyes again.

###

The new hospital took very few patients—only fifty. It had a long waiting list to get in. But Mike would be transferred on this very day.

The New Hospital

On my first visit, I saw a friend from the old neighborhood where we grew up. Her daughter in-law had had a stroke. “This place costs a pretty penny,” she said.

“Yeah, I’ll bet. They said it was a step down from ICU.”

“It’s a recovery hospital for the critically ill,” Jacky clarified. “Patients learn how to breathe, eat, speak, talk and think as independently as possible.”

I turned away from her. Her words scared me too much.

A Specialty Diet

From the start, the dietician changed Mike’s diet. “He cannot swallow well,” the dietitian said. “We need to mince his food. Sorry. It does not look appetizing. The danger? He can aspirate.”

I knew what that meant. It could go into his lungs. That happened to my mom’s friend.

The dietician went from room to room with a small computer tablet, touching the screen with a special pen. Nancy and I chose Mike’s meals for the evening and the next day. It doesn’t really matter what I choose. Mike is a picky eater. He likes his food crisp and crunchy.

When the food came, Nancy lifted the domed lid and tried to interest him in it. “Mike, your food’s here.”

He looked at it and gagged then waved it away. Later that night, the nurse succeeded in getting him to eat some sherbet. That and “milkshakes” (similar to Ensure) is what he lived on for the next two weeks.

“Can you bring me a hamburger?” he would beg.

We did sneak him in a few fast-food items (against Nancy’s better judgment).

“I’m a nurse. Do you expect me to approve it?”

But I couldn’t say no. He never ate more than a bite or two anyway.

A Terser Environment

Having Mike in this hospital frightened me.

The staff spoke in hushed voices, and they used big words like “encephalopathy,” which meant toxins were going to his brain and causing confusion.

For example, Mike asked for me to raise his bed to a sitting position.

“You’re um … already sitting up,” I became a little confused myself. Doubt set in. Did he want to lie down?

“I am?”

“Yes, you’re sitting up, Mike.” Ron cut in smoothly. “Did you need something else?”

“Nooo…” Mike closed his eyes.

My heart broke. “This … confusion is just temporary, Mike. We’re going to get past this.”

On the way home from the hospital, Ron praised me. “That is exactly the kind of reminder he needs to hear, Amy. You did well today.”

I smiled, proud of myself. I rarely felt I did well. The dimmer lighting caused me to bump into hospital trays. When I jumped up eager to help my brother, I had to be mindful of IVs, and the many unfamiliar obstacles by his bed.

###

Mike had not started dialysis yet, but his kidneys desperately needed flushed out. The doctors didn’t know if his fistula (like a port) was ready to support dialysis. They juggled the two variables with care.

The nephrologist visited Mike every day to check on his condition—typically after I left the to work. Nancy made it a point to liaison with him. She did so well. She talked about him as if they were old friends. In fact, she had worked with his father years earlier. That liaison was immensely helpful and likely aided in the nephrologist being plugged into Mike’s situation.

The Race to Safely Begin Dialysis

“Amy, they are looking for the top-most dialysis specialist in Erie. Mike is going to need dialysis soon. He needs it now. But they’re holding off in hopes of getting this gal. If his fistula isn’t ready, they will have to go in and do through the IV tube. That isn’t ideal. But they might not have a choice.”

Mike’s medical team raced to find the foremost specialist.

The staff filled me in on high numbers daily. “Dear God, bring her to us. You have a purpose and a plan for Mike.”

When I closed my eyes, I could still see the nephrologist studying his charts and shaking his head back and forth, tapping at a paper. “Mike, can you hear me? Mike? Mike!”

Finally, my brother’s voice came, as if from far away. “Yeah.”

“Buddy, we’re going to get you the best of the best. She’s going to come here to help you. You’re going to be okay.” He sounded sure of himself.

Oh, to be so certain!

***

I kept my cell phone on the shelf under the register in case of any emergencies.  Nancy rang me early one afternoon.

“They found her! The specialist. She said his fistula seemed ready.” Nancy sounded jubilant. “She’s coming to oversee the procedure … get this … tomorrow morning.”

: Oh, dear God … this is it! “I’m OFF tomorrow!” No coincidences in God’s world. He knew what this meant to Mike and me. Thank you, God! 


“Ya’ open?” a lady questioned with a gallon jug of milk in her hand.

“Gotta go, Nancy. Fill me in later!”

I don’t know how I focused that day. Numbers leaped out at me. Off the register and off the screen later at the hospital.

Dialysis—so like the boogieman to Mike and me—had caught up with us. How can the boogieman get you and save your life at the same time?

Life Moves Forward

The next morning, bright and early at 6 AM Mike’s team assembled and under the expertise of the specialist, started his dialysis. They treated it with the utmost seriousness. So much was at stake.

The hospital itself didn’t open until noon.

Mike had been undergoing the procedure for several hours. I couldn’t wait to see him. This is going to take a lot out of him. Be prepared for him to be sleeping.

Nancy sat in the waiting room. “When you guys find out how it went, lemme know!”

Later that afternoon, the nephrologist appeared. His face held a serene smile. “Beautiful. The process went just beautiful. He’s exhausted, of course, but the fistula held up well. Better than we imagined.”

I sat next to Mike’s sleeping form and prayed for him, for the anguish we had all felt I noticed bruises on his right hand and arm. By products of the procedure. Nancy had said to expect that. I picked up his hand and held it. Not even that woke him up.

“I’ll give Nancy a chance to visit,” I said, reaching for my white cane.

God Speaks through a Stranger

In the elevator, I met a visitor who traveled from two states away to get his girlfriend accepted for care. “They told me it was the best facility.”

I winced when he told me what had brought her to the hospital. Before the elevator came to a stop on the ground floor, I felt God’s unwavering hand on my shoulder. Oh, no not physically. But it steadied me all the same.

This gentleman’s girlfriend had been on a waiting list for months. But Mike had come right in. He had received dialysis from the most knowledgeable technician in the tri- state region.

This hospital had scared me so much, I forgot to look at the good in our situation. Truly Mike had found favor with God. He had tenderly orchestrated the entire series of events … finding the specialist in time to save him … starting the dialysis, my day off work and now meeting the man in the elevator, whose words confirm “it’s the best of the best.”

God seemed to be telling me, “Yes, your brother is critically ill. But now he will begin to recover. He has a team of experts, but I am the Head of that Team. Trust me.”

The elevator door opened. The man headed to his car to eat an afternoon snack, he said. Visitors could not bring in any food to the hospital.

“Nice to meet you,” I said to the man. “All the best to you and your girlfriend. I’ll be praying for your situation.”

A Verse Comes

I took a seat in the waiting room while Nancy garnered more information. Her nurse’s training and persistence served us well.

Alone, I thanked God for all his many blessings that came together that day. He gave me this verse from Psalm 27. I remain confident of this. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

When I looked it up that evening, I found the next verse so encouraging. “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and wait for the Lord.”  (Psalm 27:14)

I vowed to be more confident. To be more grateful to become stronger and wait on him. God, you do show me your goodness in the land of the living.  

 

You have just read “Reaching for God in the Hard Places Part 2” by Amy L. Bovaird. © June 22, 2023. All rights reserved.