The Power of Prayer
He was rushed into our emergency room because of fever, chills, and jaundice (a yellowish discoloration of the skin). The hospital nearest his home could not provide them an adequate explanation of his condition. There were pointing to Hepatitis B or Leptospirosis as the main pathology. He waded in flood waters about one or two weeks prior. He transferred to this hospital on the advice of a family member.
His vital signs began to deteriorate. His heart raced, his blood pressure dropped. His kidneys stopped producing urine. His lungs filled with fluid. The blood vessels in his eyes popped, giving him a scary red gaze. He then went into a seizure.
The emergency room physicians went into action, putting in a breathing tube and placing him on a ventilator, infusing large amounts of fluid, starting pressors to keep his blood pressure up, placing a central line for monitoring central pressures and volumes, inserting a foley catheter… it was a whirlwind of activity.
We felt like we were going to lose him, and prepped the family on the severity of his condition, preparing for the worst.
Various subspecialties were called to co-manage his condition. Pulmonary, cardiology, infectious diseases, nephrology, hematology, surgery, and neurology… A veteran team. He was placed in intensive care for the next few days. Despite our coordinated efforts, one organ system after another failed. He developed congestive heart failure. He needed dialysis. He needed multiple blood transfusions. He was on intravenous several antimicrobials. He developed pancreatitis. He needed an emergency cholecystotomy.
A specialist pulled me aside after her rounds. “He’s really not looking good,” she said. “How many have you seen with so many organs shut down, yet continue to live a normal life? We’re just looking at a few hours or a few days left.”
Have faith, I thought. Despite our interventions and our intentions, the fate of this man was not in our hands.
As attending, I was conducting the orchestra — coordinating his care, consulting my seniors, and translating the intricacies of his medical care into words that his relatives understood.
“Please do what is best,” his wife said.
“I need your help too,” I replied. “Help me understand what he wanted, what you, as a family, want. While we do the best we can… I ask for your prayers… we need all the help we can get.”
I started talking about advanced directives and end-of-life issues. They would talk among themselves, praying among themselves. I stayed with them awhile, offering my prayer too.
I left a prayer of healing for him, for God to make His Will apparent, for there is much that we are unable to do, much that we do not understand. He was like a ship full of holes, sinking, and we were just desperately plugging the holes.
The next day, after a stormy sleepless night, everything changed. He calmed down. He woke up. His lungs cleared. His blood pressure rose. He urinated (you could not begin to imagine the joy over something as gross as urine). He was weaned off the ventilator. His pressors were turned off.
He began to stand up and walk.
There was still the blood red halo around his eyes that were beginning to recede. His skin color was returning to normal. He was thanking his medical team for keeping him alive, for never giving up.
We talked about continuing his care, possibly needing surgery to remove his gallbladder. He desired to go home first, build up his strength, and return for the other things that needed to be done.
An example of the power of prayer? I think so.