1 Peter 4:10 – “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
A year after we had started our new clinic, as a team focused on our patients and not ourselves, my head nurse found me. It was lunchtime.
“I’m going to visit one of our patients that is having issues, and she can’t come to us because her legs are too swollen. She’s eighty-five and lives with her daughter not far from here,” she started, testing for my response.
“Wait. I’ll come with you. Can we be back in an hour for our next patient?”
She smiled. “Sure, I know where she lives. I’ve done this before.” I drove, and we talked about the patient and how I admired her for doing this. The visit was documented in the past as a nurse visit – no charge.
“Miss Ellie. This is Doctor Adams, our new doctor,” she said as an introduction. Miss Ellie was seated in a recliner with a bible in her lap. The TV was on, and she was wearing a thin pink bathrobe. The recliner elevated her legs. They were so swollen fluid was leaking from the stretched skin to a towel under her legs. Heart failure was the most common cause of this.
“Oh, Doctor Adams, Debbie, your nurse, has told me all about you. She is such a blessing,” she said quickly. Her eyes were bright and gleaming, accented by a smile that would melt any heart.
We took her blood pressure and temperature, reviewed her medications, and made a medication change. I called in the change to her pharmacy on my cell phone. She agreed that her daughter would bring her to the clinic in a week for a recheck and lab tests.
As we hugged her goodbye, she pulled a twenty-dollar bill from the bible in her lap and tried to hand it to me. “You’re a saint, Doctor. Please take this,” she pleaded.
“Miss Ellie, no. We will send a bill to Medicare for a home visit, and they’ll pay us. Keep your money, please. And we both enjoyed the visit, so perhaps we can do this again,” I said frankly. Hugs and handshakes followed, and we made it back to the clinic on time.
“I understand you went to see Miss Ellie yesterday,” said the third patient in a row the following morning.
“I did. But wait; I’m confused. How is it that you and the last two patients this morning know that my nurse and I made a house call yesterday?”
“Doc. Everyone in this town knows you saw Miss Ellie yesterday. After you left her house, she called every Baptist church in town and put you on their prayer lists. You are famous in our Baptist community now,” he finished with a big grin. I was a bit stunned. God works in mysterious ways.
That same week, a seventy-three-year-old, white-haired gentleman came to our clinic with his wife. He was a new patient coming in for a physical. I saw him walking into the room and noticed his walk was abnormal. He was flopping his feet and taking short steps. This was classic in conditions like Parkinson’s Disease or other neurologic disorders. He was alert and well dressed, and his dark green eyes were bright and watching me closely.
“I just don’t feel right, Doctor,” he stated. His wife was standing close to him and nodding her head.
“Mr. Nolan let’s see what we can find. I’ll start at the top and work my way to the bottom. Follow my finger with your eyes,” I began and examined everything, but skipped the rectal exam, as he assured me everything was working fine there. He did not have the typical hand tremors seen in Parkinson’s Disease. He seemed fine other than his strange gait.
“I don’t see anything obvious to worry about here,” I reassured. “I’m going to do a full set of standard lab tests now and will add a few extra tests looking for cancer or inflammation. We will also look at your thyroid function. If something is wrong, we’ll find it,” I concluded.
We shook hands, and I asked them to set up an appointment for the next week so we could go over the labs together and take another look. Something was abnormal. It was Friday afternoon.
I spent that weekend at home with my family. Sunday evening found me thinking about my full schedule on Monday. Perhaps I could make the day better if I reviewed Friday’s labs now. That would save time tomorrow, so I logged onto our electronic medical record (EMR) system from home. There were lots of labs to evaluate.
This was taking time on a Sunday evening, and I was trying to finish soon. I rarely check labs on weekends.
In each case, after reviewing a set of normal labs, I would mark them as ‘reviewed’ and send a pre-written standard note to the patient. If the patient was not enrolled in our EMR system, I would send the same note to the nurse to call the patient with the information.
I came to Mr. Nolan’s labs. They were all normal. As I got ready to push ‘send’ to my nurse, I was hit with a bothersome thought.
Why are they all normal? There was clearly something wrong with his walk, and both he and his wife were concerned. His visit was not just to establish care with a new doctor. They believed something bad was going on.
I did something else I rarely do on the weekend. I picked up the phone and called him.
“Mr. Nolan, this is Doctor Adams. I was reviewing your labs and wanted to call and see how you were doing.” I was fishing for more information.
“Doctor, I’m glad you called. I am much worse.”
He went on to describe his worsening symptoms. They had been getting worse all weekend, and he could barely walk. His vision was getting worse, and he had a headache that would not go away.
“Sir give the phone to your wife, right now, please,” I said decisively.
She came on the phone.
“Mrs. Nolan, I need you to call an ambulance and get your husband to the hospital now,” I stated.
“Sir, we have an appointment with you at your clinic tomorrow. He’ll be fine until then, I think,” she interrupted.
“Ma’am, I think your husband is bleeding inside his head. He may need help that might include surgery tonight. If you don’t call right now, I will. He needs to go to the emergency room immediately,” I stated as directly as I could. She understood.
“Alright, I’ll call as soon as we hang up. Thank you, Doctor Adams.” We hung up, and I leaned back and took a deep breath. Bleeding in his head would explain the normal labs, but abnormal and now worsening symptoms. Thank you, Lord.
I checked the EMR Monday morning and saw that he had gone to surgery directly from the emergency room. They had done a head CT scan, which showed the intracranial bleeding I had suspected.
One week later, they returned together. His head was half-shaved, and he had an incision that stretched from his forehead to the back of his head. There were metal staples every half of an inch along the left side of his scalp. I admired the surgeon’s handiwork.
His wife started. “Doctor Adams, the surgeon that operated on him Sunday night, told us to tell you that the doctor who sent him in that night had saved his life. He said he would not have lived through the night. They removed a baseball-sized blood clot from his head. We can’t thank you enough,” she reported, amazed.
“Mr. Nolan, I need to tell you that the Doctor who saved your life on Sunday was not me. God had a role in our lives that night. I’m still wondering why I did what I did that evening. I don’t usually review labs on Sundays or call patients when the labs are all normal. I had an intuition, or I heard a voice, so I believe your Doctor was in heaven that night. He directed my thoughts and actions.”
They nodded in understanding. “God needs help on earth, you know. You’re a saint in our book,” smiled the wife. I blushed, remembering God’s presence in my life and all the area churches that kept me on their prayer lists. Then a thought hit me.
“Sir, what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a retired minister,” he smiled. We have been close ever since.
I asked his blessing at each future visit, which he was always happy to give. God has always been present in my efforts to help others. I touch each patient with warm hands empowered to heal by the prayers and blessings of others.
The above is from Chapter 59 in just released Swords and Saints a Doctor’s Journey