Day 1 - 40 Days of Hope for Healthcare Heroes

DAY 1

For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

“He’s out of his mind,” my night-shift colleague said as she gave me a report on the patient in room 474. “He’s talking nonsense. Wrist restraints and hand mitts on. He fell off a curb and fractured his left lower leg; an ambulance brought him here. But he can’t tell us about, and we can’t locate, any family.”

The situation wasn’t unusual in our big-city hospital, where drifters, drug addicts, and dementia patients brought in from nursing homes often lacked family or other support. When I entered the man’s room, I expected to perform the usual assessment and to do my best to keep him clean and comfortable. But as soon as I saw him, I knew something was amiss.

Mr. Sobol beckoned me closer to his bed, reaching for me with both hands, even though they were held in place with restraints. I came closer, keeping distant enough so that if he was suffering from delusional dementia, I would be clear of the punches and pinching I’d learned the hard way to avoid. But rather than becoming more agitated as I approached, his countenance softened, if only slightly.

He spoke to me with urgency, but the sounds he made were unrecognizable.

“I’m Beth, your nurse. I’m here to help you. Do you understand?”

He repeated the same sounds, his grip on my hand tight with desperation. We both wanted to understand each other. But we couldn’t.

Soon, though, I began to recognize the repeating consonants and vowels that indicated he likely was speaking another language, and not what coworkers had been calling gibberish.

Eventually, his locution slowed and the near-panic in his eyes receded. I eventually determined he was from Belarus. The hospital operator helped secure an interpreter who spoke Russian on a three-way line.

Privyet, Joseph!” the translator said.

Joseph’s eyes brightened instantly when he realized he had a connection, a way to communicate, a way to finally be understood.

Over the course of the next few days, we scheduled meetings with Russian-speaking interpreters and each of Joseph’s physicians. We learned he had a sister in Chicago with whom he could stay once healthy enough to discharge. He had been traveling to see her on a Greyhound bus, and when he’d gotten off at the Indianapolis station to stretch his legs and use the restroom, he’d fallen. Unfamiliar with his language or accent, people at the bus station assumed he was drunk, and the misunderstanding continued from there.

Two days later, Joseph was sitting in a chair beside his bed, his leg propped on a pillow and a stool, his sister Tetiana sitting beside him, ready to take him home.

BREAKROOM BOOST

Language isn’t the only barrier that keeps us from giving the best care. The more stressed we are, the more detached we become from our work, and the fewer reserves we have to dig deeper to understand our patients’ point of view. But God is so much greater than our weakness and the darkness that revels in division. Compassion is greater than confusion. Encouragement is greater than exhaustion. Peace is greater than powerlessness. In Christ, we are more than conquerors of the irritability and weariness that threaten the caregiving we so want to offer.

HANDWASHING PRAYER

Lord, help me to listen for you and to hear with my heart when I’m tempted to dismiss things I don’t understand.

VITAL SIGNS

What were today’s fears, frustrations, and heartbreak?

EVIDENCE-BASED HOPE

What things are you grateful for and where have you seen God working this week?

From the Book: