I love to ask people who they want to meet in Heaven. Most people either go blank or get defensive and say, “Well, JESUS, of course!” I can’t wait to meet my Savior either but I am one of the fortunate few who has met a biblical hero here in this world.
I met the Woman from the Gospels who had an “issue of blood”. The Bible records her as having had an issue of blood for 12 years, having had this issue for 12 years she has spent all her money on doctors and was still sick. But one day she heard Jesus was coming through her town and she knew if she could just get to him, and only touch the hem of his garment she would be healed. Her faith in this fact was invincible.
I met her in 1990 as a fledgling nurse straight of college. Her name at this meeting was Ms. A and she was admitted to my med-surg ward for a total abdominal hysterectomy to address her bleeding fibroid tumors. I got her settled in, put her chart together, got all pre-op labs ordered and instructed her on pre-op procedure. However, when her labs came back her blood counts showed that her hematocrit and hemoglobin were extremely low. She was severely anemic from loss of blood. The anesthesiologist ordered a type and cross for a blood transfusion to get her counts back up so she could safely go to surgery. This should all been fairly routine but the real issue loomed before us.
Ms. A was of a religion that does not accept blood transfusions. I am not writing this to argue this point. That is beyond my scope. Ms. A refused to violate her belief and accept the blood transfusion. All of us on the floor that evening tried talking to her, this is a routine procedure, safe, the surgery would go fine and all this would be over with…Ms. A just smiled a sweet little smile and continued to refuse the blood. And she grew weaker by the hour. We reasoned, we pleaded and argued and she continued to refuse. The surgeon, anesthesiologist spoke with her, they too, reasoned and argued with her. She kept smiling and refusing. The family was brought in and after consulting with the doctors they said it was Ms. A’s decision to make. As she grew weaker the family broke down, abandoned the tenets of their faith and joined the doctors in pleading and arguing with her. Ms. A smiled and stood firm. Her answer was “NO”.
She informed us with that same sweet smile that she, “would not do it.” her exact words to me were, “I will not abandon my faith!” She kept smiling and she grew weaker. The hospital ethics board was brought in to meet with the doctors, the family and Ms. A. The ethics board decided that Ms. A was competent and had firm religious grounds to back her decision. The doctors told the family that if Ms. A continued to bleed she would die and they should plan accordingly. The family brought in the grandkids. They figured if Ms. A saw what she had to live for and to loose she would change her mind. Ms. A smiled, weakly hugged her family members and held fast to her faith.
About a week of this had gone on at this point and I came in for my 3-11 shift. Ms. A was in her room alone. I helped her wash her hands and her face and fed her dinner as she was now to weak to manage her own knife and fork. My heart was breaking over this dear sweet lady who was literally dying over what I thought of a “stupid simple blood transfusion” My faith was pretty invincible too and I knew what I had to do, so I dropped to my knees beside her bed and I started to pray for her. Loudly, fervently, totally believing that my vain words would cause her to change her mind. I remember even asking the Lord to bring Ms. A to her senses! I got done and with a huge “AMEN!” I popped my eyes open and looked with great expectation at Ms. A. She simply smiled that sweet little smile and said, “Honey, I thank you for praying for me.” That was it, no frantic call to the blood bank, doctors or family members.
Two more days went by and as I came in on shift I saw the posture of everyone around the nursing station. Glances were thrown my way then everyone disappeared into the conference room. I knew instantly that something was very wrong and sure enough, Ms. A had passed away about an hour before I came in. I was personally devastated. What had happened here? Our science had failed, our powers of reasoning had failed, we had behaved ethically according to the board but a lady was dead. My faith had failed, or had it?
I thought a lot about Ms. A over the next few weeks. I have thought of her often over the past 26 years of my nursing career. Her faith was incredible to me. In the face of certain death she stood unwavering, firm, a true soldier in God’s army. The battle she won hands down, was the battle of setting an example of what faith really is.
Before we judge her for refusing a “routine” medical procedure that would have saved her physical life we need to think, what would WE have done? What have we done with our faith? Have we every personally felt a sword held to our neck as it was demanded of us to deny our Lord? Have we ever laid in a hospital bed facing certain death, watching your beloved children abandon the faith you gave your life to raise them in cave under the pressure. Feeling your body grow weaker by the minute but your mind remains intact. And having the strength in that mind to overcome the body and it’s fears. I have never had my faith tested in such a way.
But when my faith has been tested, I see a sweet little smile in my mind. I remember a sweet older lady who stood firm with such grace under fire that her faith inspired my entire career and my own personal faith. I will see her again, and I can’t wait to thank her for passing on her faith to me and tell her how that faith has led me to continue to drop to my knees and get back up and stand strong. I can’t wait to tell her that she showed me that healing is often not on the path we expect or desire it to be.
Thank you Ms. A, I will NOT abandon my faith either!
And He said to her, “daughter thy faith has made thee whole, go in peace.” Mark 5:34
This post is dedicated to my beloved mentor, and a fierce prayer warrior, Mrs. Patricia Hilbun R.N. I love you Ms. Pat, your prayers for me are answered!