This has been a rough spell in the ICU. Severe viral pneumonias with shock, overwhelming sepsis, has claimed the lives of at least five patients. Mostly these have been normal healthy kids who get a little vomiting and diarrhea, start to cough, come in and then within a few days are fighting for their lives. In spite of being on a ventilator, getting pressors to support blood pressure, antibiotics which aren't much use, constant monitoring, they just have been crashing and dying.
So when the sixth one was admitted, I realized I was subconsciously detached. I watched him following the same pattern. I knew he was going to die. And I just wasn't ready for one more. I informed his mother of his lack of progress, his increasing illness, several times on Monday. But I wasn't getting attached, wasn't getting my hopes up. He stopped moving, stopped breathing much, letting the machine do it all, stopped responding to pain or touch.
Then she leaned over to talk to him, to see if she could get any response. "Jack," she pleaded, willing him to open his eyes, "Jack." My objective distance went right out the window. I knew his name was Jackson, but hearing her call him by the same name I call my youngest, just went straight to my heart. I learned that her own mother had died last week. They buried her Friday, just as Jack got sick. Her husband disappeared from the scene, unreachable by phone. She had come to the hospital expecting a quick check of a normal fever, and now she was losing her second close family member in a few days.
On Tuesday afternoon I noticed visitors, and offered to meet with all of them in the conference room to update them on Jack's situation, which was dire. I wanted her to hear the worst when she had a rare window of emotional and spiritual support. The nurse did a great job helping me go through the details of his case with the stoic group of a half dozen ladies, all with head scarves and matronly clothes, kind faces that have seen too much pain, encouraging words. I talked about the book of Job, and how Jack's mother was not guilty, how God is looking for faith in impossible circumstances, how we can't explain and make sense of all the hurts in a fallen world. Together we decided to take him off the vent while this supportive group of aunties prayed and waited. We put Jack in his mother's arms, and she held him as he breathed is final gasp.
It was a good death, a good process, full of community and holiness and love. But the sting was still there. Hope, yes. But the painful prick of reality, of a world broken, of the innocent dying, of unexpected loss, still jabs. Come, Lord Jesus.