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full house

Posted Apr 12 2010 12:43pm
It would seem that God is not joking when He lays a verse on my heart. This morning at handover, at the fresh start of a new week, I just felt led to remind us all of the verse from Lamentations where we are promised that God's compassion never fails, that His mercy is new with each morning. Something prompted me to pray for us all to be filled with compassion and mercy, and you'd think I'd know by now what that meant; we were going to need it.

Nothing spectacularly bad happened today. In fact, there were pockets of pure light in the midst of it all. We discovered that Obre's name is truly O'Brien, and couldn't stop laughing when his mama shared with us that he's most definitely named after an American tennis player O'Brien's dad had seen on TV once. O'Brien himself (the small one) continues to do well, improving slowly but surely.

I took one of my favourite kids ever, Aziz, to the OR while his nurse was at lunch. She had given Aziz his pre-medication a few minutes earlier, so it was expected that he would be a little dopey while we carried him down the hall to the waiting area. (That medication had the absolute opposite effect on a kid earlier in the day who had insisted on riding a little toy fire engine the entire way down there and would have ridden right into the OR if they'd let him.) When I settled him on the bench, he tucked himself into my side and grinned up at me with a strange little smile which actually turned out to be the smile of the child who has successfully held his medication in his mouth for a good fifteen minutes and is incredibly proud of his sneakiness. When I finally convinced him to swallow it, we went on with the checking in process until we got to the part where we ask the mama to confirm the surgery. She told us she had absolutely no idea what surgery her child was about to have, so I jokingly told her that if she didn't know we might as well all pack up and head home. Aziz seemed to think this was a bad idea, and his little seven-year old voice chirped up. Pied gauche! Left foot! He was absolutely right, and so we considered that box ticked.

All of this (and there was more; there's always more) would have been fun if it hadn't been for the utter chaos that surrounded the shift. At one point, I looked around and counted the people in the ward. Right then, there were seventeen patients, fifteen caregivers, eight translators, five nurses, two physicians, two physiotherapists and a housekeeper. There were fifty people in that one room, and since the already-low ceilings are still strung with colourful paper chains from Easter and the kids' toys are filling every corner of the ward, there clearly wasn't enough room for all those bodies. It's not that things were horribly bad, it's just that it's nearly impossible for them to be good when there isn't even room to breathe. Compassion is sometimes hard to come by when you can't hear yourself think.

When it looked like the number of discharges would almost balance the admissions and we'd still have two beds left over, I decided that we could endure the cacophony for one more day before the madness spilled over into the silent A Ward. We discharged patients left and right, sending little kiddos and their casts out one after another, and just after lunch there was finally a moment of quiet.

We've got one hour until it starts all over again, Jenn reminded me, and I groaned in anticipation of the renewed noise levels when, right on cue, the phone rang. News of one more patient, a little girl who would be admitted along with her papa. Two more to stuff into the already full-to-bursting room, and I just couldn't face it. Lovelace was the proverbial patient that broke the charge nurse's clipboard, requiring a complete reworking of the afternoon assignment and a massive shifting of half of the patients next door, but it's okay because I wouldn't have missed out on Lovelace for the world.

Little Lovelace, the not-quite-five year-old girl with huge tumors distorting her jaw and the top of her head, crying as we put in the IV she'll need for the surgery where we'll take the biopsy that will decide her fate. A child who's already endured more in her short years than I can imagine for an entire lifetime. Her papa shows her pictures on his cell phone and plays the ringtones to soothe her cries, and I have no idea what her future holds.

All I know is that those wards are watched over by One whose compassion never runs empty. One whose mercy is new every single morning, no matter how much the chaos might threaten to consume us.

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