An Accidental Crash Course in "Flight Nursing"

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


It had been an incredibly eventful week. I had spent many hours of the previous twelve days in the emergency department, assisting patients. I was grateful for the opportunity to get some overtime before the start of college, but I also keenly felt a need for rest.

Thankfully, I had finished my last shift and was on my way to sunny Arizona to join my family for vacation. 

God graciously brought conviction upon my heart; did I look at this vacation as my only source of rest? Did I believe this circumstantial deliverance from work was more important than serving others for His glory? These questions were about to be put to the test.

I was sitting in a lovely window seat in the plane taking in the calm, dark outdoor views, with hopes of going off to sleep, when an announcement was made over the loudspeaker. 

"Attention passengers, do we have any medical personnel abroad?"

My mind was groggy from a lack of sleep, but quickly, I raised my hand in response. I was directed to make my way to the back of the aircraft. Here I discovered a gentleman who had apparently passed out. An RN from a Spectrum outpatient clinic had also responded to the incident. Quickly, we both began to assess the situation. 

The gentleman was seated awkwardly, making it look as though his legs had given out on him at the time of his possible syncopal episode. Bits and pieces of his medical history were being obtained. The individual had a history of high blood pressure and was on medication for it, but recently his physician noted that this medication was softening his pressures too much. But the physician--for some reason--had not yet taken the gentleman off his prescription or changed the dose, knowing this risk.

When the RN obtained a blood pressure, it was low enough that if we were in the ED, I knew our providers might already be thinking along the lines of intubation if the pressure would continue to drop. I felt nervous. He was confused and appeared to be lightheaded. We were 40-some minutes from landing, and if this individual went unresponsive, all we had to offer him was CPR. We did not even have a way of obtaining an oxygen saturation, let alone interventions. 

The gentleman also noted a family history of heart disease, which was not reassuring. After obtaining a respiratory and heart rate--both within normal range--the RN and I assisted the individual to a nearby seat, then preformed a fuller assessment. The next successful blood pressure was closer to normal range; I was so grateful to see this improvement. Things can go pretty south with soft pressures and quickly so. 

I began to keep a written record of the man's symptoms, the bit of medical history I knew, current medications he was taking, vital signs we obtained, and what happened that evening so I could give an accurate report to EMS at landing. 

The gentleman was very thankful and kind. What a change this was compared to some of the aggressive patients I had recently worked with. He thanked me and asked me my name--even while experiencing some continuing confusion from his syncopal episode--and shared about his own life. God is so gracious; He knows how much I love to connect with my patients.

Eventually, we landed and two firefighters boarded the plane. I gave report to them; then off went my "patient" and his son with a flight attendant following closely behind, to receive more adequate medical care.

After exiting the plane several minutes later, I saw the individual again, surrounded by several firefighters as they obtained an EKG and gave him a chance to rest. 

I smiled, thinking how thankful I was that the Lord allowed me to be involved in this gentleman's care. If Jesus had given me my way and allowed me to have an uneventful flight, I would have missed out on a chance to see His ability to provide strength to me amid exhaustion. And answer my prayer as I silently asked Him for a supernatural ability to hear the blood pressure--with a noisy plane and very low quality stethoscope. While I felt so funny eventually being the only medical person attending to the man--feeling like I needed a doctor and RN to tell me what to do next--the Great Physician Himself directed me and attentively watched over the individual.


I had the idea that to keep from burning out of medical care, I needed to fly thousands of miles away from my job and have a full out break. Jesus gently reminded me that I am not only called to pour into others lives when I'm on the clock, but whenever He places someone in my path to share His love with. 

Sometimes the best rest I can receive comes in a way that seems counterintuitive to self. We think we can only give so much of ourselves before we break, but the amazing thing about being in Christ is that we may depend on His grace which never runs out! 

"He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then, I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Though we may find ourselves tiered, exhausted and even personally in need, God often provides the chance to turn outward and look into the needs of others, empowered by His strength. As Oswald Chambers has said: "Once we realize that Jesus has served us even to the depths of our meagerness, our selfishness, and our sin, nothing we encounter from others will be able to exhaust our determination to serve others for His sake" [1].

There's no doubt in the minds of those who invest care in other's health; our jobs are hard. There have been times I've come home from work and just cried, and other times I've literally jumped for joy. What is my response to a line of work that can be so trying? Where do I run to for refreshment for my soul?

In Psalm 34, we find this beautiful encouragement:
"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing...The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry...When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned" (34:8-10,15,17-22).
My refuge, rest and refreshment do not lie in my circumstances. No amount of vegging, vacationing or self-care can provide all that my soul ultimately needs. Taking time to breathe, enjoying family trips and showering are all great gifts from the Father of heavenly lights (James 1:17); yet even when we have attempted these things to their fullest degree, we eventually still discover a lingering emptiness.

All of creation is crying out for redemption (Romans 8:19-25)! Our only completeness lies not in momentary peace, but in the One who laid down His very life to make us His own.

"And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:10).

Jesus is the only One who can ultimately satisfy our souls. As we rest ourselves in His sufficiency, He cultivates in our hearts a love for those around us.

Paul wrote to the church at Galatia: "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:13-14).

Do you know what Jesus deserved? Adoration. The worship of multitudes of angels and every creation He has ever made. To be served entirely and treated as the King He is. Yet this is what Scripture tells us of Him:

"...Though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).

The Most High willingly made Himself low for our redemption.

The only reason I can ever say "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 116:9) is because the One who is Life Himself took my place. "By oppression and judgement He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people" (Isaiah 53:8).

Because Jesus lives in us, we have everything we need to serve others with joy, even when it is difficult. I do not serve others as an attempt to gain God's favor, but out of the restful knowledge that no one in the world could ever earn God's approval by our works. "Yet we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no man shall be justified" (Galatians 2:16).

For all who are in Christ, there is no condemnation! Never do we have to worry that we must alleviate the wrath of God by our efforts (it would be impossible), instead--only because of Jesus--we are set free from the punishment we deserved, and may serve Him without fear (Luke 1:74).

Finding refreshment for our own souls in Christ alone, we may turn outward and walk in His steps, being moved with compassion for those who are in need (Mark 1:41,8:2).
"Wouldst thou be a chief? Then lowly serve, Wouldst thou go up? Then go down. But go as low as you will, the Highest has been lower still" (author unknown).
Are we willing to lay aside our own comfort that we may pour out and serve other as Jesus has done for us?

--
1. Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., 1992, p. February 23

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