Friday, July 22, 2011

Pick Up The Phone

As the lone chaplain in the middle of the night, I often assisted by contacting a patient's family.  Much of the time, the patient is not able to verbalize to me who they want me to call.  If they are intubated, unconscious, or just plain too drunk to say, I rely on the registrar's deeply honed skill at digging up history on this patient. 

We often will collaborate when the patient is non-verbal.  Who is listed as the emergency contact from the last visit?  When was the last visit?  Can we try finding the ex-wife on  Do we have any employment information?  A middle name?  Who called the ambulance for them?

Once, the only number we could find was the patient's brother and his son who were both listed as living on the same street but whose phone numbers didn't work.  So we called the county sheriff to make a house call and let them know that their loved one was in the Emergency Department.

Once, the patient was actually very awake.  She was screaming from shock and her coping mechanism was to talk talk talk.  The hardest part was getting her to stop talking.  She provided her mother's name and number, her sister's name and number, her nephew's name and number, her boyfriend, his son and his dad, and the neighbor.  It was around 2am, so I hesitated calling these folks, but we needed family information since she was headed to emergency surgery. 

I called. Wrong number.  I called another number.  "Please hold while the party you are trying to reach is contacted," while listening to annoying rock music.  And held. And held.  "This person is not answering.  Please try again later." click.  I called another number. Disconnected.  I called another number.  Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ... no answer.  Out of the five numbers, not one person picked up the phone or even had voice mail activated. So, I went back to the talker and, well, talked for a while.  I tried this sequence a number of times until finally the patient used her own phone to call her family/friends and they recognized the number so they picked up.  By that time, hours later, she was ready to be discharged.  But her friend was not so lucky.  Her friend's family never did pick up the phone call from the hospital and since she was unconscious, she went right into surgery.  Due to medical privacy, we could not tell the friend what was happening.  We only urged her to ask the friend's family to call or at least to answer the calls from the hospital.

This scenario happens over and over, and on every shift.  I get to call a patient's family who are often out of town, and the family doesn't recognize the number so they don't pick up.  Now, when I receive a call on my phone from a number that I don't recognize, I pick up the phone.  I might have a streak of suspicion or cynicism, but I pick up. 

I wonder how many times God has "called" and I just didn't recognize the number so I didn't "pick up."  Ya just never know until you answer! 

Who is calling you in this moment?

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9

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