I knew that she was HIV positive before I started her surgery. I’d seen her multiple times for significant other problems related to her pregnancy. She was kind, and smiled sweetly each time she came to see me. But this last time was different. She was bleeding too much and I knew that a C-section would be needed urgently. I put on my routine garb –hat, glasses, mask, plastic gown, then cloth gown, followed by double layers of gloves. I moved quickly, as the situation required. The placenta was sitting beneath where I had to cut the uterus to get inside to where the baby was, so I had to cut through the placenta. This added a little bit of extra bloodiness to the routine operation. As I finally got inside where I needed to be, I stretched my hands to make room to get the baby out. The tissues started to move against the force of my hands, and the amniotic fluid rushed out. In that moment a mixture of blood and amniotic fluid gushed at my head, hit my hat, mask, and glasses, went behind them, and ran all down the side of my face. I tasted the slightly salty (unfortunately previously known) taste of the fluid as it even soaked through my mask. There was nothing else to do but get the baby out quickly. Meanwhile, the fluid had also gotten all over my assistant and the anesthesia staff too, and they had immediately left the room to clean up. So, I found myself alone, with no one to hand the baby off to at the baby warmer. I was yelling for someone to come in and clean off my face, but it was multiple minutes before anyone arrived.
Finally a replacement anesthestist arrived at the head of the bed. He cleaned my face with rubbing alcohol. I told him that I needed to rinse out my eye. A moment later the bore of a needle was aimed at my left eyeball. I usually think it is a bit ridiculous to be scared by a needle, but this one was looking huge! It was equivalent to looking down the barrel of a shotgun pointed at your head. It was like a centimeter away and the more I looked at it, the bigger it got. I thought the guy was going to pierce my eye with it. I instinctively began to back away. He saw my deep distrust. He told me to be still and started to squirt sterile saline forcefully into my eye. I’d never exactly had an eye rinse like that one. It was scary. He finished a couple syringes full and then I finished up the surgery.
After the case, I rinsed it more myself in the sink, grabbed the medications that are recommended for HIV exposure, and then went home to take a shower. Yuck. But the yuckiness was just beginning. I took the necessary pills upon arrival to my house. They were quite large, what in my family we would describe as “horse pills”. Almost immediately after taking them I felt some uncomfortable nausea. I figured if I just waited, it would go away. Nope, that wasn’t an accurate assumption. My compassion rapidly began to grow for those on such medications permanently. The nausea was constant, initially only relieved when I fell asleep at night. In addition, frequent diarrhea left me nervous to leave the house. I felt bloated up like one of the dead frogs that I used to find in the swimming pool. Disgusting, that is how it felt, disgusting. I spoke to others who had to be on the medications before for similar exposure related risk reductions, and they all said it had been awful. Most had stopped the medications after only a day or two because they felt so bad that they couldn’t leave the house.
I knew that my true risk for contracting the disease from the eye splash was really low, but each time I thought of stopping the meds I considered how stupid I’d feel if I were that rare person who contracted the virus and it could have been avoided. So, I kept on. I never really felt motivated by fear, just by a desire to do what seemed to be the responsible thing for my health. I did consider the obvious, of course, that it would sure stink to get that infection. But a moment later, the less obvious, but completely certain reality set in – that God can manage any “complication” that my life ever brings. That includes every single sickness and injury and pain and loss. I don’t have to live in dread of something bad happening. I don’t have to live with fear of losing control over part of my life. All I have to do is live for the glory of God. It is so comforting to know that He can handle all of the details from there. Now that doesn’t mean that I understand what He does with all of it, but I know that He can be trusted with whatever comes. And that is good enough.
Practically, I am very thankful, as I have now finished those terrible medicines. All my labs are fine, with negative test results for HIV. And I have once again been reminded that being in God’s hands is the safest place to ever be, regardless of circumstance.