The Blue Chair

blue chair

“Indeed, He who watches over  Israel will neither slumber or sleep.” Psalm 121:4

Do you feel convinced when you are unable to care for yourself God will send a rescue?  Do you know  His presence never leaves you?

I stood in a holy place not long ago; a sacred place where you feel God hover. Your steps are gingerly placed inside His steps and the path is true, straight like an arrow.  His breath is on the nape of your neck and you feel His whispered still, small voice in your ear like a heartbeat.

Her name is Roseline (changed for this story) and she had a very large tumor removed by a kind and skilled surgeon.  It was done in a hard place with limited  resources at hand. The surgical suites were part of a local clinic well hidden behind an ancient aqueduct and a high wall recently made even higher, in rural Haiti.

Roseline’s postoperative complications began due to a low hemoglobin and caused her to stop breathing. A reclining chair, a bedside table and even a nearby patient were scattered in every direction as nurses began their resuscitation. The patient’s legs were elevated into trendelenburg-a position where the legs are higher than the head.  A nurse practitioner stood at Roseline’s head calling for an ambu-bag, reeling off orders to those nurses stationed at Roseline’s feet.

Drugs were brought to the bedside and Albumin was administered. A 2nd IV line was started. Roseline breathed but vomited, her breaths slowed and all but stalled again. Her bed was rolled away from the wall into a middle cubicle.img_4048

Seizures began suddenly nearly back to back, as Roseline clenched her teeth and jaw in the battle. A small plastic blue chair was carelessly left askew close to the head of the bed. I shoved it with my foot as I assisted the unconscious patient as she vomited bile into a makeshift emesis basin. I adjusted her Nasogastric tube  invented out of substitute materials found on site.

It was a Sunday. A phlebotomist arrived in her good church dress. She sat in the blue chair and drew Roseline’s  blood for a hemoglobin. It was 1.6.

Nearby a blood donor had just been recruited to begin giving.  He sat in the blue chair and then it was repositioned further down the walkway while he received replenishing IV fluids.  Afterwards, the donor stood solemnly by Roseline’s bed as he watched his own blood transfused to the patient.  I felt him praying, but did not hear his words.

The chair had now been taken by Roseline’s sister in law. She arrived drenched in sweat from the heat and her hurry. She sat at the foot of the bed and stared in utter silence as fear overtook her.  After a few minutes of silent grief, several nurses guided her outside.

I sat in the chair and held the patient’s hand as the next blood transfusion and albumin dosage went in. Nurses were at the bedside working and changing IV lines. They spoke to Roseline softly and bright smiles were given, despite nearly six hours going by with little progress.  img_4055

I whispered to Roseline not to cross over  and to fight death as her agonal breaths slowed to 3 times a minute. I prayed out loud.  I prayed to myself.  Yes, I prayed.

Just then an unexpected missions construction team assembled in the entryway to the postop. They were frequent visitors to this building and had arrived to repair pvc pipes holding up patient privacy curtains. One man pulled the blue chair over to use as a step stool. I snapped at him to return it to me.

“Can’t you see I’m using it?” I said angrily.

He apologized and stood on a transport gurney instead. One member of the team came and stood by the blue chair, (now safely back at the bedside) and led a short prayer.

A nurse with the construction crew was well acquainted with the local clinic doctor.  It seemed like a long time afterward, but eventually that doctor was sitting in the blue chair going over the patient’s notes. He asked pertinent questions. Carefully, he redressed Roseline’s long abdominal incision. He gave orders, found a fresh nasogastric tube, and made phone calls looking for a bed in a nearby hospital. He strolled from the room to talk to the nurse who had summoned him.

Piled with linens and a fresh gown, the blue chair disappeared under its load.  As the bed was remade with clean sheets, it reappeared, then remained empty for a minute.  The Phlebotomist returned to the blue chair and drew a second hemoglobin.  The hemoglobin had reluctantly risen to five.

The blue chair was cool for mere seconds before it  was pulled to the opposite side of the bed by the nurse practitioner.  She watched and waited, quietly writing a detailed summary for the upcoming hospital transfer. Haitian nurses would have to stay the night again with Roseline-she the only patient remaining from the surgery team’s round of procedures.  After the 4th partial transfusion, Roseline began to stir slightly and the seizures stopped.  Her breathing became even.

Feeling weary some 8 hours into the event, I lay on a nearby hospital bed and tried to deep breathe. I faced the metal back of the blue chair as the nurse practitioner called off Roseline’s systolic blood pressures every 10 minutes or so. 70. . . 75. . . 80.img_4056

Nurses came one by one and spoke encouragingly  to Roseline.  Her first words were a local expression and an abbreviation of the word “twop” meaning too much.

“Pa bi mal,”( translated not too bad),  Roseline whispered in a strained and tired voice.  It was one of my favorite Haitian phrases and my heart rejoiced in God’s miracle.

I agreed (Creole word-dako) I felt things perhaps were not too bad as I left the facility some 3 hours later. Roseline recovered after a week of hospital care and four additional transfusions. Her hemoglobin was just two on admission.

The blue chair was occupied by God’s workers, whether in focused task or yielded to those who manned the helm for endless hours.  Some heard only the ticking of the recovery room wall clock as they guarded like angels by Roseline’s bed. Whether in life or death, she was not alone for a moment.  God is watching and waiting with us, for us, and in us as we traverse this earth doing His work and will.

He does not rest from His duty as watchman on the wall, spending an eternity in the blue chair as His Spirit draws close to us in trials and joys. Let us give thanks to all those who care for us and have the eyes to see our pain and the ears to hear our voice. It is well.

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