Keep our prejudice reserved, for patience and silence always teaches us something!
A Physicians Prayer
In 2004 I had been working as a Physician Assistant in an urgent care practice for nine years. In the Midwest there appears to be few liberals. Clearly this is an inaccurate statement however so the perceptions of bias go. More accurately the conservative evangelical right stands out before my eyes like an orange interstate construction sign, “Proceed with caution.” My bias, my stereotype, I own it, I am not proud of it; however there is only so much of a personal bias that is attempted to be shoved down my throat before I scream, “STOP.” Whether it is a Christian car magnetic fish, “what would Jesus do “bumper sticker or any other influential ploy?
I do however accept all my patients no matter religion, race, or political affiliation. Then in July of 2004 I walked into room seven, to greet a gentle, engaging sixty-seven year old lady with abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea for five days. My classic medical history ensued, duration of symptoms, what makes it better, worse, travel history, exposures, and on and on. She was clearly in pain, eye contact was at a minimum and the history was disjointed as we paused between her bouts of nausea and emesis. I would take a wash cloth, wet it, hold her forehead as she vomited in the half moon shaped basin. Now this behavior was not taught in school, rather an ingrained tradition from my youth. My mother would routinely implement the cool wash cloth routine. This, in reality did absolutely nothing from a medical standpoint; however did give reassurance she was there for me. I must admit, I had moments as a child wondering why she did this. Would my head explode if it was not cooled? Was vomit emitting from the pours on my forehead? Was she protecting me from whiplash from the intense vomiting as I would heave into the porcelain bowl? Never the less it was a caring tradition that died hard with me and I obviously carried it with me into adulthood with my patients.
Her exam was relatively unremarkable, her abdomen was soft, good bowl sounds and I was not concerned about a surgical belly. We discussed medication to make her comfortable. She would agree to some basic anti-emetic to slow down the nausea, and anti-diarrheal medication along with frequent fluids, and rest. She appeared pleased with my reassurance and asked if I would pray with her to alleviate her pain. Needless to say I was taken back, she clearly observed my hesitancy and asked inquisitively, ”Surely you pray?” “Yes, yes I do.” I replied; but wanted to avoid the classic interrogation into my long, laborious, research into organized religion. She did not ask a second time; however grabbed my hand and began a spontaneous discussion with God.
“Dear God help this man, help others, and fill his soul with the love and caring you have showed others. Guide his judgment with accuracy, let him accept all of your children and with your help he will work to his fullest potential. You have given him to me this day and I thank you for that, thank you Lord for being in my heart, fill his heart with your goodness and I know it will spill out onto others,” For this I thank you, Amen.
She opened her eyes, smiled and calmly stated, “See that wasn’t that bad was it young man.” Granted I was in my forties, did not feel that young but I had to ask her. “I thought we were praying for the alleviation of your pain?” “We did” she said with an exclamation. Not my physical pain that I can tolerate, but the emotional pain I felt from you when I met you. At the time my marriage was far from ideal, the daily rituals became a lesson in loneliness and isolation. She knew none of this, however picked up on my emotions when meeting me. “If I help you through prayer, just a little, do you realize how many people you will be able to help? She hopefully replied.
I thanked her with a handshake, “not good enough.” She replied and hugged me as if I were her son. We smiled, made eye contact and parted ways. I thought about that interaction for many days and still reflect on it.
One week later an envelope arrived at the clinic. Inside was a laminated holy card addressed to me. One side was the classic picture of what Jesus Christ might look like, on the back was ,”The physician prayer.”
Lord, thou great physician, I kneel before thee.
Since every good and perfect gift must come from Thee, I pray;
Give me skill to my hand, clear vision to my mind, kindness and sympathy to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift at least part of the burden of my suffering fellow man, and a true realization of the rare privilege that is mine. Take from my heart all guile and worldliness, that with the simple faith of a child I may rely on thee, Amen
Gifts occur when one least expects them. Be aware of your stereotypes, your old baggage; be open to all new experiences. It will be worth it on your path of life. It was mine on that day!