Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit

Monday, November 24, 2008
For those of you who have been wondering/praying/asking...

Today I chose to commit to the STICU for the next year. Not the ER like many people expected. A LOT of factors were involved, but the main thing that knocked me off the fence was that in the ICU, despite all the death you see, you also see people get better.

Last week a man came into the unit to say hello to the staff. He had been in the ICU for over four months and no one thought he would make it out. His liver was so damaged that his eyes were florescent yellow, he was on dialysis, maxed out on blood pressure meds (among other things), and is still battling his leukemia. The doctors wanted to give up but kept on because he's only 29 years old.

He WALKED into the unit last week and the nurses started freaking out. Many of them crying. You never get to see that in an ER. I'm not sure I could watch all the pain without the occasional happy ending.


Saturday, November 22, 2008
We've been studying how to engage the poor at my church. It's the most relevant topic I can think of in a city that has at least two homeless people standing at my Exit on 16/75 everyday, and blanketed bundles in nearly every alleyway downtown.

We've talked a lot the last two weeks about how we don't have to go looking for hurting, poor and broken people. They are surrounding us. Even though we often don't take the time to look under the old blankets, in the garbage bins, or even just behind our neighbor's door.

This week God didn't even give me the chance to look around. He put a homeless, hurting, child in one of my hospital beds for three days. Stephen (name changed to protect the innocent) is a 19 year old, mentally handicapped foster child. He has had no friends visit in three days. He had no one call to check on him. He had a previous foster mother come in once on my shift. He is fighting for his life.

He was brought into the ER with a temperature of 89 degrees, he was covered in staph infections and his platelets and white blood cells were so low that everything pointed towards an autoimmune disease...perhaps HIV or even leukemia. He should have been in the hospital weeks ago. But there was no one to take notice.

Engaging the poor occurs pretty often in my job. And I don't say that to make it sound easy. It just isn't something I have to go looking for much. The hard part for me is believing that there is anyway to make a difference. Believing that anything will change.

I like fixing people. I'm not great at it but I always try. My mom has laughed at me over the years because I tend to have close friends with huge catastrophes in their lives...divorce, cancer, abuse, deaths, eating disorders and so on. I'm not sure how it happens. But God shows Himself to me through their pain. Even if it takes years.

I'm not sure what I'll learn from Stephen though. It makes me angry. Angry that no one wanted him when he was born, angry that he's been thrown into the foster system, angry that even at 19 he was unable to escape the system, angry that he's sick and no one noticed, angry that he's in the ICU and no one cares. And perhaps most angry that if and when he gets out...none of those things will change for him.

Where is the hope in that?

We're singing a song tomorrow at church that contains the hope.
"A Father to the orphan, a Healer to the broken, this is our God.
He brings peace to your madness, and comfort in our sadness.
This is the One we have waited for, this is our God."

I'm not sure I've really engaged the poor this week. But they have engaged me.
Friday, November 21, 2008
grace disguised.

by jess parks.

overdue therapy.

This week has had me so deep in my own head I wasn't sure I'd ever surface.

Let's start with Monday. I went to see my friend's art show in Milledgeville. She is a graduating art major and an old "house-mate" of mine. Her mother has been fighting a brain tumor since she was in the 8th grade. Her mother was given 6 months at the time of diagnosis. Doctor's don't know everything.

Jess's artwork reflected her parents and siblings and much of their pain and heartache that came with losing the mother and wife they used to know and excepting the new one that could no longer take care of them or talk to them the way we expect our mothers to. Jess talked about the crap that we have to face in our daily lives and how the only hope is that one day we will all be made new. She made mention of her realization that even if God took her mother's cancer away and healed her, she would still face death some day. We will all face death someday. And only He can make us new.

However, what I could most relate to was when Jess thanked her dad. Her dad who helps her mother bath and dress everyday. Eat and get into her wheelchair. Her dad who helps her mother on and off the toilet and into the car. Her dad, whose entire life is forever changed because when he said, "until death do us part," he meant it. He meant it to his God and to his beloved wife.

I relate to this because "love" is what I learned the most about from my mother being sick. I've made mention of it before, but my senior year of high school my mom had a GI bleed that lead to acute organ failure and she was not supposed to make it out of Emory hospital. It's taken me years to realize what I learned from it all.

The main thing was the love of my father. Yes, my earthly one. Although I know it's the one Above him that deserves all the credit. Jess and I both stand in awe of the selfless love our fathers have had for our moms over the years. And I know it's only a small picture of what my heavenly Father has for me.

I watched my mother go from an upset stomach to a concentration camp looking human in 41 days in the ICU. I hardly ever saw my dad that semester. I hardly ever saw him because he went from work to the hospital everyday. And while I hid in my created business, he was caring for my mother daily. When my mom came home things got even harder. My dad was her nurse because I was too selfishly trapped in denial to be of any use. My mom had an ileostomy for months and it took her frail body close to a year to mostly recover. You never realize how much a mother does for you until she can't to it anymore.

I had a small piece of what Jess has experienced since the eighth grade. And while my mother made a full recovery, it seems that Jess's only will when she goes home.

Photography has a certain way of moving me. Differently than other art forms. It is a silent communicator, although sometimes it screams at you. There is something so powerful about a motionless picture on a gallery wall. Something that puts me so deep into my head...

...and that was only Monday.