The warning sound on the overhead paging system is heart-grabbing, starting at a low pitch, then quickly sliding higher. And then the words: “CODE BLUE Core Tower. 6th floor. CODE BLUE. Core Tower. 6th floor.” A few seconds later, pagers buzz with the room number.
All over the hospital, adrenaline starts to flow. People from all disciplines of healthcare start moving toward the 6th floor, where someone’s heart has stopped. There are no directions from the patient saying, “Do not Resuscitate”. It’s time to get it started.
Part of the interdisciplinary team that is moving toward the room is the chaplain. It’s our job to call the family if no one has. It’s our job to be with the family if they are present. It will be our job to care for the family if the heart isn’t restarted.
It’s probably our job to pray, too.
I think that you are thinking that I will be the spiritual one. I think you are thinking that I must be asking God to start the heart. I think you are thinking that I must be humming an old hymn: “May the peace of God my Father rule my life in everything, that I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.”
I realized recently that what I’m actually saying as I shuffle down the hall, up the elevator, down the hall is this:
God, get me there.
Don’t let me mess up in conversations.
Let me know what to do.
Don’t die don’t die don’t die
She’s going to die, isn’t she.
These are my real words. They are honest words. They are almost all about me.
And so, I began thinking through what to talk with God about as I’m walking quickly to the room where a heart isn’t beating.
Here’s what I could say:
God, grant the doctor running the code a wisdom that goes beyond training. Allow her to forget the room she came from and the patient that she was going to. Help her be able to be here. Give clarity of communication to the team. Help her remember what worked the last time, on a patient with these numbers, when that last time was eighteen months and twenty codes ago.
God, grant the tech who has his hands on the chest strength of both arms and stomach. Help him keep in mind the song that provides the best rhythm. Help him to not think about how this patient reminds him of his grandfather until this process is done. Help him to find the exact pressure that will help most and damage least. And help him sleep tonight without dreams of what happened today.
God, grant the pharmacist the favor of having everything needed currently stocked in the cart. Give her the ears to hear the muffled orders the first time, with right measures. Give her the wisdom to know when the numbers may be wrong.
God, care for the nurses, at the bed, in the room, in the hall, at the computer. Grant them the patience and precision and collaboration needed in the middle of the chaos. Help their eyes and fingers to find the right supplies. Help their compassion for this person they’ve cared for the past week give them perseverance and not paralysis. Help their experience stabilize the whole room. Keep their inexperience from overwhelming their training.
God, give the respiratory therapists the very breath of life. As they are bagging this patient, help them forget the other patients in the hospital, forget the rest of the chaos in the room. May they stay steady.
God, grant us words for the family in the other room, in this room, at home unaware. The one in the room who is suddenly overwhelmed by twenty people crowding the room and the bed, help that surge of panic to not overwhelm them. The one in the hall, watching the pumping arms, hearing the conversation of necessary experimentation, let them not dwell on the thoughts that we don’t know at all what to do. The one we haven’t yet reached, help them hear all of our words.
By now, you see that I haven’t said anything about the person in the bed. The center of the attention. The one who may most need God’s help. Right? That’s my most uncertain conversation with God as I’m going down the hall. So it will wait for another post.
I’m offering this post and the next one not as recipes for what to say to God but as a glimpse of the needs of a variety of people in the middle of a literal life and death moment.