Wednesday, March 15, 2006
ER JESUS: HOMELESS SCHIZO?
A HOMELESS SCHIZOPHRENEC?
In my years in the ER, I saw Jesus daily doing His Kingdom work in and through a group of His followers. It was a true expression of the church. One day stands out beyond all the others and left me radically changed forever. It was the day I saw Jesus face to face…
‘Give us hearts as servants’…was the song they were singing as I left the church service heading off for my second 12 hour shift in row. Weekends in the ER can be absolutely brutal! I was physically and emotionally spent as I walked up to the employee entrance. The sound of ambulances and an approaching medical helicopter were telltale signs that I would be literally, hitting the ground running.
“Dawn…can you lock down room 15?” yelled out my charge nurse as I crawled up to the nurse’s station. (When someone asked for a lock down it was usually a psychiatric or combative case). Two security guards stood outside the room, biceps flexing like bouncers anticipating a drunken brawl. My eyes rolled as I walked past them into the room to set up.
The last lock clicked into place as the masked medics arrived with Joe strapped and restrained to their cart. The hallway cleared with heads turned away in disgust at the smell surrounding them. They entered the room and I could see Joe with his feet hung over the edge of the cart covered with plastic bags tightly taped around the ankles. The ER doctor quickly examined Joe while we settled him in. The medics rattled off there findings in the background with Joe mumbling in harmony right along with them. The smell was overpowering as they uncovered his swollen mold encrusted feet. After tucking him in and taking his vital signs, I left the room to tend to my other 10 patients-a-waiting.
Returning to the nurse’s station, I overheard the other Nurses and Techs arguing who over would take Joe as their patient. In addition to the usual lab work and tests…the doctor had ordered a ‘shower’ complete with betadine foot scrub, antibiotic ointment and non-adherent wraps. The charge nurse looked in my direction, “Dawn will you please take Joe? Please? You don’t have to do the nasty foot scrub-just give him the sponge in the shower”. I agreed and made my way to gather the supplies and waited for the security guard to open up the hazmat shower.
As I waited with Joe, the numbness of my busyness was interrupted by an overwhelming sadness. I watched Joe…restless and mumbling incoherently to him-self through his burley scruff of a beard and stache. His eyes were hidden behind his ratted curly shoulder length mane. This poor shell of a man had no one to love him. I wondered about his past and what happened to bring him to this hopelessly empty place? No one in the ER that day really looked at him and no one wanted to touch him. They wanted to ignore him and his broken life. But as much as I tried…I could not. I was drawn to him.
The smirking security guards helped me walk him to the shower as bits and crumbles of life on the street fell in a trail behind us. As we entered the shower room I set out the shampoo, soaps and towels like it was a 5 star hotel. I felt in my heart that for at least 10 minutes, this forgotten man would be treated as a king. I thought for those 10 minutes he would see the love of Jesus. I set down the foot sponge and decided that I would do the gentle-betadine foot scrub by myself as soon as his shower was finished. I called the stock room for two large basins and a chair.
When Joe was finished in the shower I pulled back the curtain and walked him to the ‘throne’ of warmed blankets and the two basins set on the floor beside. As I knelt at his feet, my heart broke and stomach turned as I gently picked up his swollen rotted feet. Most of his nails were black and curled over the top of his toe. The skin was rough, broken and oozing puss. Tears streamed down my face while my gloved hands tenderly sponged the brown soap over his wounded feet.
The room was quiet as the once mocking security guards, started to help by handing me towels. As I padded the last foot dry, I looked up and for the first time Joe’s eyes locked into mine. For that moment he was alert, aware and weeping as he quietly said “Thank you”. In that moment, I was the one seeing Jesus. He was there all along, right where he said he would be.
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”
…`Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:35-40)