Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuberculosis Ward Lessons

Had to go to TB ward today and see a patient. This one was really sick. And the room was little and cramped with no real ventilation. It already made me feel claustrophobic, and then since she was a super sick immunocompromised TB patient, I started to concentrate on my breathing the whole time and it made me feel like I might pass out. We don’t have special respirator masks here. Actually we are out of all masks except the cloth ones we use in the OR. Anyhow, I didn’t have a mask on. So, it probably doesn’t make any sense, but I thought to myself that if I just breathed shallowly maybe the TB would just get in my nostrils or the very top of my upper respiratory tract and then be able to be blown out when I got back outside. Well, at least that thought gave me some comfort while I was in the room, even though it is pretty dumb. So there she was breathing about 60 times per minute, and since I was trying to breathe really shallowly I was probably just beneath her rate. I was praying the whole time, “Lord please don’t let my TB test convert to positive”. As I left that hazy dark room and came out into the light, I realized how weird my perspective had just been. I laughed at how consumed I had been by my breathing, like I was in a modified lamaze class or something. And I remembered how going where God has called us takes us often to very uncomfortable places. I regained perspective that He had called me to go in there and care for that poor woman. I was overtaken for a moment by thoughts related to my own mortality, but ultimately He has already numbered all of my days. I don’t want to be foolish and risk unnecessary exposures, etc. I am not advocating that. And yet, I am glad that God doesn’t sit up in heaven consumed by what we are consumed by. What a small and useless God would He be if He were looking down, biting his fingernails, wondering if I would get TB, not knowing what to do if I did. But that isn’t our God. He is not consumed by these facts, indeed He is consuming. He is bigger, fiercer, stronger, more dangerous, more passionate, more loving, more full of kindness than anything that we can imagine. And when circumstances are beyond our understanding and we fear that they have gone beyond His control, we remember that He is sovereign and able to be trusted even then. So of course He can be trusted in the TB ward. Stop breathing funny, thinking you can keep those particles in your nostrils, silly child.

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