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Prayer, Patients and Presence

Photo credit: Andy Reis
Photo credit: Andy Reis

“Yes Ma’am”  he says over and over during my triage of him. His accent is thick and Southern. He tells me he is “here in beautiful Maine with a Christian group doing some work at China Lake Christian Camp and that he has a little problem with some chest pain.” This young man—early 20’s—is a big burly kid with a smile that lights up the room. He is jovial and kind, but nervous about his pain. He tells me about an irregular heartbeat that usually doesn’t cause pain. As I talk to him he continues to call me “Ma’am” and just smiles every time he says it… He calls the doctor, “Sir” and the lab tech “Sir”…he is so polite I can barely stand it. (He is not our usual patient.)

After the IV is started, the labs are drawn, EKG is done and interpreted, chest x-ray completed…he and I just talked for a few minutes while we waited for someone to come and sit with him. He is from the Bible belt (a long way from home!) and in a strange place. I didn’t want to leave him alone until a friend arrived. (He is my son’s age…I felt motherly.)

He went to college in Virginia and currently was doing work with his local church traveling to other states and doing work on Christian camps. He is from a loving family and his mother is a nurse. He tells me that, “she will be calling soon and she will be worried.” I assure him I will talk with her and let her know everything that is happening, as long as he approves it. “Oh for sure—she would whoop my butt otherwise! You must understand that, being a nurse.” I laugh and tell him, “Oh I understand…I have a daughter older than you and a son your age…I would be so scared and I would want to know all the details as well.”

He just laughs and flatters me with how young I look…I tell him, “You know how to work the ladies…” He just grins and yes, “Yes Ma’am.” We continue to talk about God and religion…we are from similar denominations and I understand his faith. I am impressed by his level of faith and expression of it.

As the night unfolds he needs some Adenosine to slow down his heart rhythm so we can see what the underlying rhythm is. For you nurses out there, his Pwaves were barried into the T wave. He was tachy but not really in a narrow or wide complex, so we prepped him for the Adenosine. He stated he was scared…his room was filled with several friends at this time and the room grew serious but remained friendly; he wanted them to stay.

The doctor and I explained the Adenosine and the feelings it would produce. He again said, “Just wait…I’m scared.” I asked him if he wanted to take a moment to pray before we started and he said yes. They all looked at me.

I then asked him if he wanted me to pray for him and he said yes. I put my hand on his arm and bowed my head. As I started to pray out loud for him I heard his buddies begin to quietly pray aloud for him as well (not uncommon in our denomination). I prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, Please put your hand on this boy and calm his nerves…let your presence fill this room and quiet his heart. I pray that you would let this medication do its job and show us how to proceed. Take your child into your arms and bring peace. In Jesus name, Amen.”

When I finished, he said thank you to me…and he was ready to begin. We gave him 12 mg of Adenosine and the effect of it was minimal on him. He did not get the full-force med side effect, but it did slow the rate down enough for P waves to be seen. We captured the rhythm and the Cardiologist then had a plan. His mother called and I spoke with her and she was then relieved.

As he was being discharged, he thanked me again for taking the time to care for him, to pray for him and to talk with his mom. He said to me, “Your presence made all the difference in the world for me tonight…not only were you funny and able to take my humor—you allowed God to be present in my room and for that I am so grateful.”

As nurses our presence is required to take care of our patients. If we take the time to listen to our patient and hear what is important to them we can then give them as much of that as we can.

I was lucky to have had the time to spend with this boy prior to the intervention so I knew that God was majorly important to him and that prayer would calm him. Because I am of the same religion as he was I could pray for him in the way in which he was accustomed.

The blessing of the night was for me. I saw God work in many ways that night. I felt that I had made a difference and that our team had given amazing care that involved our presence…what I didn’t say in this story was that in the room during our prayer was a the group of Christian boys, myself, a Jewish doctor, a Buddhist intern, as well as another nurse (not sure of her religion). What is so amazing to me is that during the prayer, all heads were bowed. We all came together to care for the patient despite our differing religious views. Very cool.

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