I still remember my first patient in medical school as if it was yesterday.
It was the summer of 2000 when I started my surgical clerkship in a large county hospital. That place had anything and everything one could possible imagine with respect to the spectrum of disease and humanity. Young, old, a ton of homeless patients, drug and alcohol addicts, psychiatric illness galore… The Emergency Room was more like a zoo when one considers the noises and the smells there…
So with this context in mind, imagine my first week on the surgical rotation. My first patient was a homeless 60-year-old man who smoked 1-2 packs per day for about 45 years. As a result he had severe vascular disease and was in the process of losing his leg to dry gangrene due to lack of circulation. To make the problem worse, he became addicted to narcotic pain medicine while in the hospital.
I walked into his room one day on rounds to examine him, and irritated he said to leave him alone because he needs to focus. Focus on what?
Then I noticed he was holding his Morphine PCA (patient controlled analgesia) button in his hand and looking at the medication pump screen intensely. He figured out the PCA formula down to the last detail, and was trying to maximize the amount of narcotic he would receive from the machine.
He figured out that the machine would dispense a morphine bolus only after a 10 minute lock out. Furthermore, as a safety check, the machine was programmed to dispense a certain maximum amount each hour regardless of the lockout intervals and the number of times the patient pushes the button. He learned the way the machine worked, and when I walked in he knew he had about 5 minutes before it would respond to another push.
He was so focused on counting down the minutes and seconds to the expiration of the lockout interval that he would not even talk to me about the grand picture, which was the upcoming surgery to fix the problem in his leg.
This world and the sin around us work in a similar way.
Those who have not found God are so entrenched into the world and into sin that they cannot grasp the big picture. They would rather focus on the next vain pleasure than step back and realize that they are on the road to perdition.
Consider what Paul writes in Romans 6:23 about the outcome of being a slave to sin:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Focus on sin leads to death.
Salvation by the free gift of God leads to eternal life in Jesus.
Great illustration. Thank you for sharing it!
Ah yes, the great trap of sin we call addiction. It was one of mine (alcohol, nicotine), and has waxed and waned over the years.
Yet when the time came to walk away for good, through the power of the Holy Spirit and a desire to honour the Lord in the lead up to my baptism I just did. No withdrawals, no replacements…but a grieving process, to be sure. It hurts to die to ourselves. That is why so few are willing to. Addictions nearly ruined my life, and I have yet to find out if they will kill me in the long run. It certainly is a miracle I am alive, and healed from the traumas of my hard drinking days.
My heart goes out to those trapped in addiction. It is an unbearable darkness of being. But you are right DIT, it is sin. We can help it. With God’s help.
Thanks for your article. That must have been hard to watch people such as the example you give. Addiction, like all sin, is corrupting to the heart, soul and mind and eventually becomes ugly to behold. It can be hard to look past the ugliness and see the lost soul in the addict. However, like the audio link I recently posted about the man who refused Christ on his deathbed, some addicts will refuse help even to their dying breath. What a great tragedy. There but for the grace of God go I…
Narrowing Path, thank you for sharing. it is a tough road but in Christ we can do all things. You said “It hurts to die to ourselves. That is why so few are willing to.” I totally agree— I am thinking about embossing a tee-Shirt with this phrase. “I am being Sanctified, but at least once a day my sanctification gets up and walks off the alter.” blessings.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Delight.
Wow…some surgical clerkship. Praise the Lord you stayed in the medical profession after that experience.
As you know, I am around those who are dealing with many such addictions. I try to remember to pray with each of them after our parenting sessions.
The only experience that I have had that was similar to yours was when my daughter and her donor (Tom) were connected to similar machines.
The nurses forgot to start Tom’s machine when he got to his hospital room after the transplant. Needless to say, he was in great pain. We were finally able to get someone to turn the machine on.
This is such a true statement:
“Those who have not found God are so entrenched into the world and into sin that they cannot grasp the big picture.”
We were all like this until we came to know ” the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I hope the rest of you weekend is blessed…
Thank you Chris, we had a blessed weekend, we had the dedication of our daughter and it was wonderful.
Sad, very sad
You’re so very right! That is actually a scary story – such a major problem before him yet so concerned with narcotics! First patients I suspect are never easy, hehe