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Amazing Grace
Working as a healthcare provider has given me the unique opportunity to minister to family members during the process of sickness and death. In return for my courage in quite scary situations, I have been rewarded with a belief that the journey to the next life is a gentle one when those who really care and respect the passage are present.

Gaga was everybody's favorite person at the hospital. She had worked there for years in various capacities. It wasn't supposed to be that way......she was set for life when her husband died in his mid-40's. But, as life would have it she went to "work" for the first time after he died and she enjoyed several years of luxury. She began in the admissions office and ended up as an Emergency Room clerk who was forced to retire at the age of 70.

Gaga never took too well to being housebound. She continued to drive until her car ended up in a deep ditch close to my house in the country and the daughters said "No More". If you knew her, you'd understand that taking those keys away was the hardest thing they ever did. After that, she ran us all around on errands to the grocery store and the drug store and every store there was. Her lists were specific and detailed.

We visited her in the assisted living home regularly. As the oldest grandchild, I think somehow I always felt an obligation to be there for her. I was the only one old enough to even remember her hubby, PaPa. Plus, we had the hospital in common.

At the age of 83, she had a routine colon resection. Stuff happens sometimes, and peritonitis set in. A bizarre series of events left her in the intensive care unit laced up like a turkey following an emergency colostomy. Morphine controlled the pain, but also decreased her respirations to the point that a ventilator was a last resort. My courageous Mom declined, on the advice of a compassionate physician.

The story got ugly at this point. The surgeon on call was not compassionate enough to deal with the situation humanely. He ordered the administration of Narcan to reverse the effects of the morphine so that she would continue to breathe and resolve him of responsibility for her death. An angel of a student nurse came and found me and told me that she was writhing in pain and what was going on.

I will never EVER forget going into that room and witnessing that extreme suffering. My dear grandmother was crying out in pain and I went ballistic. "WHY" I screamed! "Why is he doing this?" Co-workers dragged me out of the intensive care cubicle. I called the chaplain and another doc was called in to deal with the situation. He chose a non-invasive type of breathing assistance and resumed pain relief.

It was a losing situation from the get go.....which is exactly why the callous attitude of that physician infuriated me. She was dying, and he wasn't brave enough to help her to the other side. His main concern was the stats on his mortality rates.

Her attending surgeon returned from a well deserved vacation 2 days later. Our family was camped out in the waiting room and given free visitation during her last hours. I remember waking up around 3am and wandering into the ICU while everybody else slept. As I held Gaga's hand and listened to her fitful breathing, I knew that it was time. Softly at first, and then with the strength that can only come from God, I began to sing "Amazing Grace" to her and watched the struggle cease. When she seemed calm, I went back to my family in the waiting room.

It wasn't long after that....about an hour. The nurses came to tell us that she was gone. As we trooped in to say goodbye, I spotted my friend the surgeon camped out at the desk looking sad. He had come to spend her last minutes with her and to do what compassionate physicians do.....to give closure and condolences to the family.

We attended the same church, and about 5 hours later, I saw him again in the fellowship hall. He apologized to me for "letting my grandmother die" and even in my fatigue, I knew that this man was a hero. A true Christian. A stand up kinda guy. My friend.

There are other stories....other deaths that I have experienced. My favorite Uncle Jim who died "making platelets". My grandmother Lottie who went to God soon after I began my work there. My uncle Bill who did not go gently. Many strangers and family of friends and friends of friends and FRIENDS.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that healthcare isn't a "calling". Keep the faith. ^j^

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me....I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now, I see.T'was Grace that taught...my heart to fear.And Grace, my fears relieved.How precious did that Grace appear...the hour I first believed.Through many dangers, toils and snares...we have already come.T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...and Grace will lead us home.The Lord has promised good to me...His word my hope secures.He will my shield and portion be...as long as life endures.When we've been here ten thousand years...bright shining as the sun.We've no less days to sing God's praise...then when we've first begun."Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me....I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now, I see.

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