“Either this man is dead, or my watch has stopped” - Groucho Marx
On Friday, while I was working in the OR, a medical student came to find me and told me there was a woman in maternity who was in cardiac arrest and needed reanimation. I went with them to find a woman lying lifeless in her bed. I told one of the students to start CPR and another to start an IV through which we could try to give her a dose of adrenaline. No one knew how long she had been in cardiac arrest. I opened the flashlight app on my iPhone and checked her pupils. They were fixed and dilated. I told the medical student to stop CPR. Her brain had ceased to function. This time death was irreversible.
They called me because my title at Kibuye is “Réanimateur”, apparently “one who brings dead people back to life”. This is the francophone equivalent of anesthesiologist/critical care physician. Judging from my success rate, I would have to say, I am not very good at my job. I would like to create another name badge that is instead labeled “Déanimateur” and see if anyone notices.
Success rates for resuscitation after cardiac arrest vary depending on where the arrest takes place. In the US, rates of success for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are between 10 and 12%. In-hospital arrests fare a bit better, around 25%. That is in settings with defibrillators, powerful medications, and often teams of specialists. While I have been able to successfully “reanimate” some patients who arrested in the O.R., I believe my current out-of-OR success rate at Kibuye is 0%.
And so, I am left to ponder the finality of death. Even after a successful reanimation, I have not reversed death, I have only postponed it, sometimes for a few days, in the best case scenario for years. But it will come, both for the patient and for me. Death awaits us all. And yet, our hearts hunger and thirst for eternity. Where did this hunger and thirst come from? If death is a natural part of life, why are we utterly devastated when it arrives, for us or for those who we love? And why have I dedicated my professional life to fighting against something that has already won?
All this might cause me to fall into despair, but for the hope I have in the reality of eternity. I no longer believe that death is the end. I have placed my hope in One who can reanimate, with a success rate of 100%, and not for days or years, but for eternity.
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” - 2 Corinthians 5:1
Most of the world’s religions claim that an eternal life with God is possible. However, most of those religions claim that we can achieve this eternal life by our own efforts, by following a list of do’s and dont's, by being “good enough”. But those of us who have tried to be “good enough” realize that we will continue to stumble and fall, that our righteousness cannot save us because we are too weak. But there is one faith that admits that we will never be “good enough” to merit an eternal life with God. And so, God entered into this world and lived that “good enough” life that we continue to fail living. And not only that, He exchanged His throne for a cross, on which He suffered and died. And through this substitutionary death, He created a way for all of us who are not “good enough” to merit this eternal life. It is no longer based on our merit, it is based on His. After His crucifixion and death, God in the personhood of Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, conquering death once and for all. This was witnessed by more than 500 people (see 1 Corinthians 15:6), many of whom went on to testify to what they had seen and many of whom were willing to be put to death because of their confidence in what they had witnessed. And now, thanks to His life, death and resurrection, death is no longer the end. It is only a portal, through which those of us who are not good enough can pass into a better, more beautiful, more joyful and eternal life with God and with His Son, Jesus. Death has been defeated through it’s own poison, which was swallowed up by God Himself.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” - Ephesians 2:4-8