I had it all planned out. The intern would see the Peds ward patients, while I came in early to start seeing the NICU babies. I would leave the NICU at 9am (to leave the ladies alone during the 8th day of Christmas) and go and see the floor patients with the intern, have some chai, and head back to finish NICU. All in all, I should be done by noon.
It went well for about 10 minutes. I got to the NICU, and the overnight nurse wanted to draw my attention to some "sick" babies. One was a preemie in obvious respiratory distress despite our most aggressive assistance. The other was a full-term baby brought in from home for severe jaundice, leading to a brain problem called kernicterus (which, in this case, was due to mom not getting that little Rhogam shot that some pregnant ladies need based on their blood type). The baby was getting light therapy and I thought that was all we had to offer. The nurse asked about "exchange transfusion". We do that here? (And by "we", I guess I meant "me")
The next several hours, I had to consult a total of 7 of my colleagues, despite my ardent desire that my efforts would enable them to have a well-deserved weekend off. During this time, the other baby died. I finally made it to the general ward, where I learned that my tardiness was not minded, given that they had been busy trying to save a little girl, whom we had been treating for HIV and TB. She also had just died. So, it was lunchtime, no work was done, a bunch of my colleagues had helped out from home, and two kids had died.
For the sake of at least facade of brevity, I won't tell the whole saga. Five children died during my 48 hour watch. Each time I watched one die, I would pray for God to receive his small child, and each time it got harder and harder to trust in the subtle, yet powerful, albeit mysterious, goodness of God.
It doesn't break my faith, but it creates a tension inside me, one that is greatly complicated by my feelings of helplessness, despite many years of my life, gone into training that is seemingly not nearly enough for the need around me. This tension makes me want to run, but I don't deny its presence. And I would assert that I have the Psalmists and a chunk of biblical prophets who would back me up.
God, how can you let this happen?
God, I can't do this.
God, I still believe that you're good. Please, please, show me.
There's so much death. How can I just keep going?
Rachel wraps her arms around me, and softly says that God's strength is made perfect in my weakness. Later, Alyssa empathizes with the simple retelling of her own first call weekend, and reiterates that I can always call her at home. And late Sunday night, we gather in the Cropsey's living room and listen to an old sermon from Knox, where Chuck preaches a characteristically somber sermon on joy from Habakkuk, asserting that we must decide whether we will view God in terms of what we see in the world, or view the world in terms of what we see in God.
This is only one part of life here, as our lighthearted exploits into pet squashes, milking moms, and dead geckos surely show. But it is significant. It is expected. It is incredibly hard. And by God's grace, I pray it be fruitful.
"Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."