My Worst Day in the ER
I am often asked, “What was your worst day in the ER?” After thirty years, you might think it would be a difficult question to answer. I can tell you without a doubt there is one evening that I will never forget.
Years ago, when I was still searching for Christ, I was always asking the same question: If there is a God why would He let such terrible things happen to good people?
It was a typically busy evening in the ER with Christmas around the corner; the patients were short-tempered and annoyed at the long wait times. My double coverage doctor had gone home, and I was left to deal with the craziness of the wild night.
Unfortunately, things were about to get a lot worse when we received a call from Emergency Medical Services. There was a house fire just around the corner from the hospital. EMS was five minutes away with three children ages two, four and six, all who had stopped breathing and needed resuscitation.
Their mother was Christmas shopping, and had left the children with their grandmother. Evidently, the fire had started upstairs with the children and quickly engulfed the entire house.
The amazing nurses I was blessed to work with jumped into action moving all patients from the critical care areas making room for the children. On arrival, chest compressions were being performed on all three. While I placed a tube in each one of them to secure an airway, the nurses, under tremendous pressure, started IV’s for medication to help stimulate their hearts.
As we were working desperately to see signs of life, we began to feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Our first difficult decision was to stop our efforts with the six-year-old as I determined that she had died. We then turned our efforts to the other two children, but they too were not responding to our medical protocols. I quietly confirmed that the four-year-old had also died.
It then struck me that I would be going into the quiet room and telling this poor mother that two of her children had died. I could not bear the thought of telling her she had lost all three of her children. We continued to try and resuscitate the two-year-old over the next 30 minutes with no success. The nurses touched my shoulder and shook their head gently and compassionately advising me to stop.
By this time the mother of the children had arrived and was being comforted by our nurses. News then came that her mother, the children’s grandmother, had also died at another hospital.
As I prepared to deliver this devastating news, I was asking where are you, God? When I did not know Jesus, the finality of death was so overwhelming that I felt helpless with no comforting words of hope.
The mother cried out, “Why Jesus? Why did you take my family?” I had no answer; and when she screamed at me with displaced anger, I had no comforting words. She held her lifeless children with such pain and suffering it was beyond words. I too could not hold back tears, as I can still picture their sweet faces wrapped in blankets.
We decided to divert all ambulances for the next few hours because the entire staff was devastated and could not overcome the agony of this tragedy. I sat speechless at my desk as the nurses and the family wept.
I relive this night over and over. If only I had known Jesus, as I do now, it might have been different.
Jesus changes everything.
If I knew Jesus, I could have comforted our nurses and reassured them that Jesus knows our suffering and is with us tonight.
If I knew Jesus, I might have prayed with their mother and told her that he knows her pain. John 11:35: Jesus wept.
If I knew Jesus, my faith would tell me that Jesus is caring for her children in Heaven. Those words of comfort would probably fall on deaf ears at the moment of her loss, but as time passes they may comfort her in her grief. The Bible tells us that through time, God makes all things beautiful and she will see her children again.
I now know Jesus, and He changes everything. There is no doubt in my mind that I will see these beautiful children again in the Kingdom of Heaven.
John 14:1-2: My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
When I asked God, “Where are you?” I describe it as my Job 38:1-3. He answered me clearly, “Where were you Tom, when I gave you the gift of medicine and you never once prayed with your patients showing compassion in my name?” How many missed opportunities did I not see to share the love of Christ?
My faith tells me, I am forgiven. His Grace is Greater than my Pride and Arrogance.
For His Glory,
Dr. Tom is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician in the USA with over 25 years of experience and an ordained minister at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville Kentucky. His true passion is world missions and he and his wife Karen are the founders of Teach To Transform, an organization that exists to equip partners around the world with medical and vocational skills they can use to share the gospel of Christ. You can subscribe to Dr. Tom’s weekly blog, Divine Appointments, to read more stories and learn more about the mission of Teach To Transform.