Christmas: Code Blue
Christmas: Code Blue
Christmas: Code Blue
Let me paint you the picture first, so that you don’t mistake this testimony for anything other than God’s love in action, not some saintly human.
A few years ago, I was in the middle of residency (medical specialty training). Residency is a rough season: working 80 hours a week under the pressure of trying not to kill anyone but actually help them while mastering your field. It means little sleep, little income, and missing out on important life events with friends and family. To top it all off, I was in an active argument with God about why He had called me to the city I was in, because I didn’t see a good reason – in fact, I saw reasons why I perhaps shouldn’t have come. It felt as if this God, who supposedly loved me, hung me out to dry. Needless to say, God and I weren’t “besties” at that point.
Then God showed up:
After another busy week, I headed to Christmas Eve service. During Communion, the priest uttered the familiar words, “do this in memory of me.” I suddenly felt the Lord prompt my heart through those words – do this in memory of me. What was “this”? I had no idea. As a model Christian that I am (not), I promptly went to bed, without giving it much more thought.
“BEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEP.”
My pager went off the following morning, Christmas day. Shoot, I had forgotten to turn it off on my precious day off! I called back anyway and my colleague answered, apologizing for the mistaken page. I then found out that they were short-staffed. At that moment, I felt the Lord prompt my heart again: do this in memory of me. Really, Lord? This was my one day off in a really long time! But even I couldn’t refuse such a clearly placed call – ‘Urgh. Fine, Lord.’ I offered to come in.
I showed up, expecting to help with some minor paperwork, and I went to do a run-of-the-mill admission: a toddler with flu. As I entered the room, I felt the Lord prompt my heart yet again – something is going to happen to him. Sure, some of it was clinical judgment, but he was alert and active, and there was no obvious reason to think much of his condition. I don't say this lightly, as there has been only a handful of times I have felt this way in my entire life, but I knew it was the Lord.
After seeing the patient, I called the ICU attending physician in charge – an intimidating move for a lowly resident on the regular, non-ICU floor. Thankfully, one I knew well picked up the phone and I started the still-awkward conversation:
“Hi, sorry to bug you, but I want to let you know about this kid. I think he is going to come to you sooner or later. I just have a ..bad feeling about him.”
One and half hour later, an overhead announcement went off:
“PEDIATRIC CODE BLUE. PEDIATRIC CODE BLUE. IN ROOM – “
I had already started running. I didn’t need to wait to hear the room number – I knew where it was happening. I ran into my patient’s room and he laid there lifeless, without a pulse or a breath, with his father screaming in the background. I started CPR. The rest of the Code team arrived, including the ICU attending, and we got to work immediately – everyone knew exactly who this child was and why he was here.
Epinephrine, dose number 1.
No pulse. CPR continuing. Intubation complete.
Epinephrine, dose number 2.
No pulse. CPR continuing. Re-intubated due to a large mucus plug in the airway, the likely cause of the Code and often an unpredictable event.
Epinephrine, dose number 3.
The pulse returned. He was back – he was alive again! He was quickly transferred to the ICU and recovered well over the course of the week.
After the Code, the floor attending physician and I breathed a sigh of relief:
“We haven’t had a Code like that on the floor in a really long time! Thank goodness you were there to begin CPR.”
“Actually, I’m not supposed to be here right now. I’m off today.”
I was there quite literally because, and only because, God asked me to.
When I got home and had a chance to reflect on it, the take-home message was simple: God’s love is for real. God loved this child so much that He spoke to me not once, not twice, but three times so that I, a pretty deaf servant of His, did what He needed me to do. God loved this child so much that He had me forget to turn off my pager and had another resident accidentally page me in order to wake me up. God loved this child so much that He put up with me rolling my eyes at His request and convinced me to go. God loved this child so much that He pushed me to risk my reputation and bug an ICU attending physician in advance. God loved this child so much that He already had it in motion to have a particular ICU physician on, one I knew well enough to put down a not-so-evidence-based prediction to.
Folks, that is a lot of love: humble, persistent, fierce, ridiculously well-architectured, not-a-second-too-late love. And we all have heard of this love, right? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16) – every Christmas, we celebrate the coming of Jesus, this awe-inspiring love. But the message can fade in the midst of all our present-day struggles and frustrations. I will be the first one to admit, it is oftentimes hard to believe that this God – this God! – can or does love me. But that Christmas, God blasted through my doubts and had me witness the drama of His love unfold right in front of my eyes. God showed me how Christmas isn’t just some cutesy story but a real event involving a real God, whose love is so profound that to this day, two thousand some years later, it has not died down even one bit.
And if you can hear my testimony, if you can believe in that love, I challenge you this new year: do not be afraid to follow Him, even if grudgingly at first, even if you’re not sure what it is that He is asking you to do. Trust me, that morning, I was not a happy camper: I was actively rolling my eyes at God and went into work, not knowing what “this” was about. Or perhaps I thought I knew and it turned out to be something very different, something greater. Since then, God has continued to lead me to seemingly dark places, whether it is a small clinic in post-earthquake Haiti or a struggling public hospital in Ethiopia or an inner-city emergency department right here in America. And time and time again, I have encountered His love, which has carried me through any and every night. Name your fears, ask God to help you drop those fears, and follow Him – I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
Merry Christmas and may your new year be fearless and filled with love!
Dr. Jane Lee
Dr. Jane Lee specializes in pediatric emergency medicine in Detroit.
Just a note to say: Merry Christmas from all of us at the Lovely Commission!
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