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Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Christmas and Redemption (part 2)

I am going to tell a good story.  With a happy ending.  But you can't get to resurrection without death. The Christmas story itself drips in the slaughter of innocent children (see post below, part 1).  The context of Christmas is death. And you have to live in darkness to see the great light.

Three times this week I've seen children die.  That's the context.  But twice in the last 48 hours I've seen a miracle.

The first was on Tuesday evening.  It was a long day, and I was passing by my ICU patients about 6 pm thinking I would soon head home.  A 6-year-old girl (a theme this week it seems) lay in one bed, still groggy and on a ventilator after our neurosurgeons had removed a brain tumor the day before.  As I stood there, she became hypoxic, her monitors starting to flash red.  I moved in to examine her as her heart rate slowed dangerously.  Her skin turned to a deathly pallor.  She did not respond to deep pain, at all. The nurse and I began to increase her oxygen, sample her blood, call over her surgeons, push IV fluids.  The senior surgeon shook his head, acknowledging that there was not a lot we could do if she was bleeding into her brain as we suspected.  Niether of us expected her to live.  But an hour later she was back to her baseline, and I spent the night watching with bated breath.  By the next morning we were able to remove her from the ventilator.  Her eyes were open, she responded to us and was breathing on her own.  I can't explain what made her deteriorate, and then revive completely.  But I'm glad.

About 24 hours later I was finally home, and had put on my Christmas pajamas and settled in after a great dinner to watch the Princess Bride with the family.  When I got a desperate phone call from the nursery, the baby with whom I had spent the prior night slowly exchanging his blood, had been getting a second exchange transfusion with the on-call staff, and arrested.  Could I come?  I threw on clothes and tennis shoes and ran.  This was a cute and loved little newborn boy who had been very sick but was crying and active only hours before.  Now he was lifeless.  The doctor on call, Sarah, had intubated him and I confirmed her efforts were moving oxygen in and out of his lungs, which usually brings a newborn back if he's save-able, but not this one.  A nurse was doing CPR and another had drawn up medicine.  We gave adrenaline once.  Twice.  More CPR.  Blood glucose normal.  Three times.  No response at all.  His pupils didn't constrict to light, he didn't move, his heart was completely flat.  Sarah and I switched back and forth, giving breaths and pumping on his tiny chest.  I could see his mother over my shoulder, sitting in tears.  He'd been down for 10-15 minutes by now, and I would have given up, but we tried one more thing.  I had asked for calcium gluconate, but they were having to order it from pharmacy (!) and it was taking long, so finally I just looked at one trusted nurse and asked her to RUN not walk to ICU and bring back a vial. She returned and drew it up to push slowly as per protocol.  He's dead, I said, just shoot it in there now.  We followed it with a big push of IV fluid, not expecting it to really do anything, but wanting to give him one last chance.

It was the most amazing thing I've almost ever seen.  This dead baby opened his eyes. He looked up at us, and started to squirm.  His heart started beating.  He started fighting our breaths, and looked like he wanted to cry, only he couldn't with a tube down his airway.  His color returned.  He blinked under the bright lights of the nursery.  After a few disbelieving minutes, we pulled his tube out and he cried like any normal baby, as his teary-eyed family and doctors and nurses looked on.  We held a thanksgiving prayer.

Both of these children will die again some day, whether this week or in one year or seventy.  But for this moment death was defeated.

Because Christmas ushered in a new reality, a deeper truth than the existence of evil.  Christmas began a redemption that is still pushing out through the world, rescuing and reviving, renewing and resuscitating.  Babies and water systems and economies and families and minds and bodies.  After the Matthew 2 slaughter, read the Isaiah 35 blossoming.  Fear not, God saves.  Springs arise in the desert and life returns to children and the recompense of God arrives.  Evil undone.  In the world, and even in me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a gift J!
seeing these resurrections must be such a gift to you for someone who sees so much death and suffering. Joy!