Wednesday, January 15, 2014

God Will Make a Way

Note: if you have not yet read the background post, "Finding Nathaniel" please find it in the list on the right side of the page and take a few minutes to read it.  This will make a lot more sense if you do.

Since the events described in the previous post, I have fallen into the habit of visiting Pastor Brown during dialysis every Saturday.  We talk and pray, and occasionally sing.  Usually I stay for an hour, but sometimes we get talking about the Word and I look up and several hours have gone by.

For a while it was Saturday morning up at the VA Hospital.  But due to renovations, Pastor Brown's schedule has been changed to late evenings in Tacoma.  All the dialysis techs know me, and they are very supportive and helpful.  However, healthcare privacy laws (HIPPA) make them leery of sharing information with me.  Pastor Brown has made his wishes very clear, however, and I am in his file as part of his treatment team, looking out for his spiritual health.

Once again it has been made clear to me that this rather odd relationship is something the Lord wants to promote.  When I arrived at the dialysis center on Saturday, the tech greeted me with "He's not here - he's been admitted to Madigan through the ER."  Madigan is the big hospital at Joint Base Lewis/McChord (Army/AirForce).
I've visited Pastor Brown at Madigan in the past. It's quite a procedure.  It's at Exit 22 on I-5, but in order to visit without a military decal you have to drive two exits past it, go to the Visitor's Center (VC) and take a number.  Then you wait in line for a long time until your number is called. You hand them your license, registration and insurance card, and they issue you a day pass.  You do this every time you want to go visit.
The VC closes at 8, and by the time I found out he was there it was nearly 8 and there was no time to get there.  SO the next day, I left the Community Care Center (CCC) early so I could get to Madigan and still get home at the usual time.   Last time, I waited in line at the VC for an hour and a half so this time I took my Kindle and all my charting from the CCC.  And it turned out I was the only person there. It took maybe 4 minutes to get a pass.
Then on to Madigan which was, typically, completely deserted.  This seems to be an oddity associated particularly with military facilities: they shut down on the weekend. It's a bit eerie - even the escalators had been turned off.  But I knew where to go, so I just took the elevator.
Now, I'dphoned his granddaughter last night, and she said, "Oh, sure. Come and visit him tomorrow.  We won't be visiting him there."  This morning I called the hospital to ascertain his whereabouts, and they cheerfully gave me his room number in ICU, and the direct number for his nurse, Amber.  I called Amber from the CCC and told her I was coming and she said the VC was open until 8 so no worries. I could come see him at any time.
Now....I spoke to all three of these people, and figured everything was in order.  But I got there and the nurse (who was not Amber by this point) said, "Oh, no. You can't visit him - no visitors: he's in isolation."  I told her I'd talked to all these people, and she said she was very sorry, but no visitors. Even staff has to gown up and wear masks and gloves and all.  I told her I'd happily wear a mask and gloves and all, but she was adamant.
There wasn't much I could do. I stood there looking at the door, wondering why I had gotten this far, only to be stonewalled at the very end.  And hoping his granddaughter had told him I'd called. I prayed quickly that if there was a way I could just let him know I'd come, that the Lord would show it to me.  I watched the staff going in and out of Pastor Brown's room.  Now, the isolation rooms at Madigan are pretty serious.  There's a two-door system, with a small anteroom where staff scrubs and gowns up, and I saw when the door opened that there were windows between that room and Pastor Brown's.  So I asked his nurse if I could just go into that room and wave at him through the window, so he'd know I'd come.  She was skeptical, but another nurse behind her stepped up and said, "Sure.  I have to go in to check his vitals.  Come in with me."
Nurse 1 was determined to keep her eye on me, so she came in too. I caught Pastor Brown's eye through the window and waved.  His face lit up and he twitched his fingers and called, "Hey!  Hi!  Come on in!"
But Nurse 1 poked her (unmasked) head in the door and said, "Sorry, Mr. Brown. You can't have visitors in isolation."
He scowled.  "She ain't no visitor."
"Well, yes, she technically is."
"No, she ain't. She's part of my treatment team. And she come a long way.  All the way from...." (momentary panic, as he'd completely forgotten where I live).  But it didn't matter. Nurse 1 was standing on protocol. She works in a military hospital. She exists to stand on protocol and the guidelines were perfectly clear.
"I'm sorry  - they should have told her not to come down here.  You can't have visitors.  For their own safety."
His heart monitor was jumping all over the place, and he barked at her:
"Ain't nobody been here to see me all day, and now my minister come all the way down here to see me and you ain't going to let her in?"
Her grimness faltered just a bit. She turned to me.
"You're a....minister?"
I shook my head.  "Only to him." I pulled out my badge from Lifecare, with my chaplain's cross on it. "I'm a chaplain."
Apparently, chaplain is a step up on the bad news scale from "minister" because she was suddenly in a hurry to get me a gown and mask and gloves and things.  I told her she didn't need to make an exception for me (I hate making exceptions, and BEING an exception is even worse), and I wasn't a military chaplain or anything, but she loaded me up, helped me on with the gown and showed me where to scrub up when I was done. 
Then she left me with him, saying, "You visit as long as you like...we have no set visiting hours.  Just talk to him until he falls could....uh...keep staying after that if you want...." and with that she was gone.
I have no idea what that was all about, except that I had watched the Lord make a way beyond what I had had asked.  But we had a great visit, and I was glad I'd gone, because he was quite ill and very frightened. I let him talk until he got it all out, then we read and recited some Scripture and we prayed together.  It was a wonderful prayer time, and I left (having scrubbed up per instructions) praising the Lord for making a way.

"If God is for us, who shall stand against us?"

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