In retrospect, it was probably doomed from the start to be a bad night. It was a Saturday, which is generally our busiest night. It was the Fourth of July, which always sees higher rates of fun-gone-wrong ER visits than normal. It was a full moon. And there was a brief lunar eclipse, for what that’s worth.
I was resigned when I started work at 7 pm that it was going to be busy. I just didn’t realize how busy.
I had received 20 pages by 11 pm, which is unheard of. I probably ended somewhere in the 30’s.
I was called to a code blue, a spiritual visit with a teary family member, several fireworks-related accidents, multiple cardiac arrests, a victim of violence, and someone hit by a car, among the many.
I was also called to bedside for 7 deaths.
For five straight hours, I was in the ER scrambling with seemingly everyone else in the hospital. The trauma team, on-call ortho PA, and x-ray technicians went from room to room. The lab technicians who draw blood went to every room, sometimes multiple times. Security was in and out as they went to the roof to escort multiple helicopter crews to and from the ER. The nurses and doctors were literally running with every page. For five straight hours, I ran with them.
At one point I heard a frenzied lab technician on her phone requesting backup. “The pager keeps going off, and I can’t keep up. I can’t do this alone,” she said. I understood how she felt.
Taking a cue from her, I grabbed my phone and called my boss. “It’s insane here,” I told her. “Here’s what has already come in, and here is what the pager says is on the way.”
“What do you need?” she asked.
I hesitated. I knew she would come if I asked.
“Actually, what I really need is prayer,” I told her. I knew she would just as happily pray as she would come in. And at that moment, I probably needed prayer as much as I needed backup.
There are times when I feel totally incapable of praying, and this was one of them. I couldn’t have strung together coherent words for a prayer if I had tried. Not that God needs us to be coherent in order to know what we need. He knows what we need better than we do. I couldn’t even come up with what I needed prayer for. Me? The patients? My coworkers? All of us?
Asking for prayer involves trust. We have to trust that the other person will not only do it, but that they will know what to pray for. What is really cool is when God leads them to pray in ways we had not even thought of. I don’t know what Lydia prayed, but I know I felt better knowing that she was.
When my replacement chaplain arrived in the morning, I filled her in on my night. “You know you could have asked for help!” she said more than once.
I did. I asked for prayer.