As she looked at me in dumbfounded silence, I noticed the long, jagged incision on the side of her neck that had been closed with staples. I thought, "That’s gonna leave one hell of a scar."
Tina sat with her legs crossed on the gurney staring at me, trying to figure out how I knew where she was from.
"I’m from Canton….but how did you know I was from Ohio?"
My partner let the cat out of the bag. "He looked at the hospital face sheet".
He was right. The face sheet doesn't just tell us when you’re born, but what state you were born in. It wasn't a word of knowledge. But it was a good ice-breaker. It made her think that someone cared about her to figure out where she was born before they talked to her. We talked a little about Canton and the fact that she’d never visited the NFL hall of fame. As we wheeled her to the elevator, my partner asked about the gash on her neck. She was more than willing to share the gory details.
She wasn't proud of it. She explained her suicide attempt matter-of-factly. It didn't seem as though she wanted sympathy. She ran out of money. She had no friends. She had no food. And she saw no hope for tomorrow being any better. So she decided to end her life.
"I’m not very good at anatomy, so I screwed it up. I know you need to cut your wrist the long way, but I didn't hit anything. I took a scissors and cut open the skin over that big artery in my neck…I forget what it’s called."
"The carotid", I said.
"Yeah, that one. Well, I went for it, but I couldn't find it. So there I was, in the bathtub, bleeding. And after a while, I knew I screwed it up and I wasn't gonna die. So I called 911."
"I’ll bet the paramedics were freaked out when they got a look at your neck", my partner said.
I've seen a lot of suicide attempts, but the way she opened up her neck was the worst attempt I can remember. The incision was about 5 inches long and was crudely stapled back together. I could see something poking out sideways that looked like a piece of bone trapped under the skin.
On the way to the ambulance, she continued her story. There was no one who cared about her. Like me, she was the black sheep of a large family. Her 8 brothers and sisters thought she was a lost cause. She never lived up to their expectations. There was no one she could ask for help.
Except her landlord.
She was welcomed by her landlord when she moved to her apartment. He had a close-knit family and they treated her with respect. When she woke up in the hospital, she realized that her cats were left alone in her apartment. It was a bloody mess and there was no one around to take care of the cats. Worse yet, was the fear that her landlord would kick her out of her apartment when he discovered what she’d done.
Much to her surprise, when she spoke with him, he only wanted to know that she was safe and asked what he could do to make it easier for her to come back home.
"Come back home? I thought he was going to make me leave. But he was so kind and understanding," she said as tears filled her eyes.
"You’re part of his family, you know. He’s adopting you into his clan."
I've met people like her landlord. They’re the sweetest people on earth. They love to nurture the wounded back to health. They encourage and support people in trouble. And God had strategically place him in her life at the right time, to give her hope.
I told her that I had recently begun to share some of the uglier parts of my past with my friends. Things that haunted me for years. I told her about this blog and what’s been happening on Facebook. And about the dreams of healing. She was interested.
"You know, I used to be an atheist," I said.
"I am an atheist", she replied.
I told her I wasn't surprised. I told her how I met God and how He appeared to me in a dream and told me He wanted me to pray for my patients and He would heal them. I shared some testimonies and told her my Papa was such a good Father.
"Wait a minute…did you call him ‘Papa’?"
"Yeah. That’s what He told me to do. He said I should call Him Papa or Daddy."
"Years ago, when I believed in God, I used to call Him Papa. I never met anyone else who called him that," she said.
I told her that God was nothing like the cruel, hateful God that a lot of people talk about. He’s loving, warm, friendly, compassionate and full of goodness. He’s better than the best dad you could ever imagine.
She began to weep uncontrollably. It was obvious that the words I spoke about God were the things she hoped were true, if there really was a God. She needed a God who would love and accept her just the way she was. When you suffer rejection over and over, the last thing you want to hear is that God thinks you're a colossal failure.
She asked if it was okay for her to sit sideways on the gurney. She had degenerative joint disease in her back and neck which made it hard for her to turn her head. I told her she could sit however she wanted.
"You know…if you want to get rid of that degenerative joint disease, I can pray for you and God will heal it."
"I’d like that", she said.
I placed my hand on her neck and commanded pain, inflammation and evil spirits to leave. I asked Papa to touch her and let her know that He's real. I asked what she felt.
"I feel really cold where your hands are."
"That’s God healing you," I said. "Here, feel my hands. They aren't cold, they’re warm. So it can’t be me."
She felt my hands and smiled when she felt their warmth and knew it couldn't have come from me.
"Can He heal this?" she said, pointing to her neck.
"He might. All I can do is pray."
I placed my hand over the incision on her neck and asked Papa to touch her again. I asked Him to remove her painful memories, her feelings of rejection, and to heal the skin and make it brand new. Her eyes looked intently into mine. I normally close my eyes when I pray with a patient, but this time I kept them open. She was staring into my eyes. I could sense her desperation. She wanted to know if this paramedic really believed what he was saying, or if he was just another religious nut. I kept my eyes focused on hers and continued speaking life to her.
We talked about many other things on the way. She devoured every word I said about ‘Papa’and cried a lot more. But they were tears of joy. We took her out of the ambulance when we arrived at the mental health unit. There was a line of people at the registration desk, so she waited outside with my partner and I went inside to get her registered. I wrote my report while I waited in line then got her checked in. I went outside when the charge nurse arrived to walk her to the treatment area.
She hopped off the gurney and gave my partner and I both a hug then turned and disappeared inside with the nurse.
My partner looked at me. "If we have to get held over past the end of shift - I don’t mind transporting people like her."