Thursday, March 4, 2010


This week, one of the two surgeries that I observed was a removal / replacement of the L1 vertebra. In order to access the vertebra where the human-made vertebra would be implanted in place of the human-accident-crushed one, the doctor had to go through the side. Location-wise, it's the part of us that is kind of a V-shape when we lie on our side - the place where the ribs stop and the hip has not started yet. It's the soft "middle" where many folks where their "spare tire."

After preping the patient with mucho sedation, anticeptic coverings galore and lined up the gadgets just "so," the doctor called an obligatory pre-surgical "Time Out." I was impressed that they have this step in the surgery protocol. All activity stops for a short period of time, maybe 1 minute. We all just stood there and breathed. I took the time to feel my feet on the floor.

The OR charge nurse positioned me near the patient's head, behind the IV stand, nowhere near the anticeptic range. I had a little step stool so that I could get really close and above the patient, well - as close as I could handle.

The doctor began. Cutting, but no bleeding because of the cauterizing tool that quickly sealed the flesh and minimized blood loss. Wow. After the flesh, the doctor cut through muscle and moved any organs out of the way with this kind of curvey-spatula-looking steel tool. Gently, tenderly, continuing.

The, the doctor cut out the rib and removed it.

AAAACCCKKKK! I am pretty sure that the doctor looked at me and said, "Look Chaplain, I just removed the rib." Wow, I replied. Now THAT is biblical! For just one moment, I thought the heavens would open and God's Kingdom would be made manifest in that OR room. No kidding.

Later, I learned that this piece of live flesh - this flexible, transparent, fibrous strip of rib - would become the core piece of the human-made L1 vertebra - well, a combo-solution, really. Part human-invention and a whole lot of God's creation all neatly inserted into little ol' L1.

For the next three hours, I continued watching. Amazed, awed, gawking and inspired.

As God was working in all our lives, it turns out that I was with this very patient two days earlier, praying with him about his anxiety for this very surgery. What joy to go visit him again today and praise God with him, together.

I'm sure I have nothing else to say about this. I'm grateful to tears.

God said, "It's not good for the Man to be alone; I'll make him a helper, a companion." So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn't find a suitable companion. 21-22 God put the Man into a deep sleep. As he slept he removed one of his ribs and replaced it with flesh. God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the Man. - Genesis 2:20-22 (The Message)

How are you showing up in this moment?

1 comment:

  1. very funny, you're so witty.

    If the doc went in through the spare tire, does that mean that the patient now has a flat tire?