November 2, 2005

ICU Angel

1545 page28 capHIRTY-FIVE OF us had just spent nearly a month in rural India conducting evangelistic meetings, praying with people, and teaching them how to live healthier lives. Between the seven teams nearly 5,000 people had given their lives to Jesus. No longer did the fear of their many gods rule their lives. They had a joyful purpose for life on earth and heaven to look forward to.

Most of our team flew home on a Monday, and soon there were only three of us left in Hyderabad till Wednesday evening: George Wheeler, treasurer of the New York Conference, his wife, Sandy, and myself. As we shopped one evening, I stubbed my toe on a dirty pipe. Despite caring for it promptly, it developed an exceptionally painful infection overnight. The local pharmacist suggested I take Cipro, a common antibiotic.

On Wednesday afternoon I took my antibiotic before we left to do some last-minute shopping. Suddenly I went into a sneezing frenzy, my eyes itched, and my upper lip began to swell. Grabbing Sandy's arm, I said, "Sandy, apparently I'm allergic to Cipro. Get me to a doctor's office or a hospital."

We asked a police officer for help. He took one look at my rapidly swelling face and got us into a motorized rickshaw, yelling instructions at the driver. By the time we arrived at the hospital, my face was so swollen that my lips stuck out beyond my nose.

Though the emergency room receptionist was gracious, she didn't grasp the severity of the situation. The ER doctors were busy, so we waited. I had to stay awake. I reached over, grabbed George's hand, and hung on tightly. I told him, "I'm hanging on so that if I faint, you'll be the first to know."

Suddenly my field of vision shrunk to about a four-inch gray hole. In seconds I was essentially blind. "Sandy, I'm going blind. My internal organs are shutting down. I don't think I have much more time."

1545 page28Sandy ran to the nearest open door and barged into an office where a neurologist was consulting with his patient. "Please, sir, my friend is dying; she cannot breathe well; she cannot see; please help!"

The doctor leaped from his chair and ran to another door. Throwing it open, he hauled the startled patient out, and sat me down in front of a physician who specialized in emergency medicine. He slapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm and squeezed it. "Please, doctor," I slurred, "what's my blood pressure?"

Ignoring my question, he fired questions at me: "What medication have you had? How long ago did you take it?" When I told him I had taken Cipro some 25-30 minutes before, I heard him suck in his breath.

By the time they wheeled me into the intensive care unit (ICU), I was so exhausted I couldn't have walked if I tried. They plunged in an IV, gave me five injections, and hooked up a heart monitor. I was horrified to hear what sounded like an erratic flat line of buzzzzzz, bleep, bleep, bleep, buzzzzzz, bleep, bleep, buzzzzzz. "Put her legs up," commanded the doctor. Instantly my heart rate monitor went to bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, about 140 beats per minute. My tongue was thick, dry, and swollen. Fighting unnatural fatigue, I knew I was going to die in India. "God, please take away the fear of dying," I prayed. Instantly a peace washed over me that nearly made me cry, except that I was too tired to cry. Instead I prayed, "Lord, please let my family know that I love them."

Surrounded by Prayer
Several hours after I was admitted to the hospital, George Wheeler left and alerted the officers at the union office. They dropped everything and ran to the hospital, panting as they came in, sweat dripping off their foreheads. Those dear men and women surrounded my bed and prayed for me. My family was called, and they, along with friends throughout the United States, prayed for my recovery. After many prayers and endless hours of waiting, Sandy and George reluctantly left for the hotel, promising to return first thing in the morning.

Throughout my time in ICU I understood a lot of what the doctors and nurses were saying, since medical terminology was thrown around in English. About every 15 minutes nurses woke me up to check my blood pressure, my IV, or to give me more medication. Around 2:00 a.m. I woke up to a silent ICU; all I could hear was the steady beep, beep, beep of the heart monitors. Sitting up in bed and leaning on my elbow, I looked toward the nurses' station outside my cubicle. What I saw surprised me.

Sitting in a chair at the desk was an American-looking man with straight blond hair. He had on a t-shirt and jeans and no lab coat. In India there is a uniform for everything, especially in a hospital. This man couldn't be a doctor or a nurse, yet he was looking through the charts. He looked over at me and smiled, the corners of his blue eyes crinkling as he said, "You're going to be all right." Could this be my guardian angel? I thought.

"That's nice to know." My one chance to talk to my angel, but I was too tired to keep my eyes open. I told him, "I wish I could talk, but I'm so exhausted."

Questions for Reflection
1. When have you, or someone close to you, experienced something that defied human explanation? What was the result?

2. Give at least five reasons why God would make some extraordinary demonstration.

3. Is God's activity in our lives a reflection of our faith, or a means of strengthening it?

4. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? God's people should see tangible demonstrations of His activity in their lives on a regular basis. Explain your answer.

"That's OK," he smiled.

A short while later I awakened with an all-too-familiar sensation. I was starting to itch all over again. My lungs started to constrict in spite of the oxygen I was on. At that precise moment a short, wiry nurse with laughing eyes stepped into my cubicle, syringe in hand. "Madam, are you feeling OK?" he asked.

"No, I'm feeling agitated and itchy, and breathing is difficult."

"I know, Madam. that's why I am here."

"How could you know? I just woke up."

His eyes danced. "Oh, Madam, I just knew. Now here is some more hydrocortisone for you. I'll put it in your IV."

He stayed for a few minutes monitoring my breathing and blood pressure. As he turned to leave, I asked him again, "How did you know?"

Chuckling as if he knew a secret I didn't, he walked around the corner, and I never saw him again, not that day, not the next, not ever on that floor. Was he also an angel?

A Universal Message
The next morning the ER doctor stopped by to see me. "Oh, Madam, I would never recognize you today! I thought for sure you were going to die, and, if not, that you would at least go into cardiac arrest. I was so worried about you! I prayed to all my gods last night. I am a Hindu, but I absolutely know that your God saved your life. You see, I didn't answer you in the ER about your blood pressure because you had none! Most people with such a reaction die within 20 minutes without intervention, but, for you, it had been nearly 35 minutes. I have never seen anything like this. You are a walking miracle."

A day after leaving the ICU, I returned to thank everyone, to get their pictures and e-mail addresses. One young doctor asked me, "Why are you in my country?"

Since he was Hindu, I was careful in my response. "Well, I was here for several reasons, but one of the things we did as a group was to give health lectures in remote villages, teaching people how to avoid common diseases."

The doctor looked down at his spotless lab coat and began to roll and unroll his tie. When he looked up, his eyes were full of tears. "Madam, it is wonderful to see your compassion and to know that you have done this for my fellow citizens."

"God loves everyone," I smiled.

Now I knew what, until then, I had only suspected: It wasn't an accident that I ended up in that hospital. it was providence, and I felt honored and humbled to be a part of it. From our Muslim travel agent, the pharmacist who sold me the Cipro, the guard at the hospital, the janitor who saw me in the ER, to the people at the hotel, they all heard the story of how God worked a miracle. It made a deep impression on them. They were puzzled by the evidence they had seen. The God of heaven is more powerful than all other gods.

Karen Taylor Glassford is a homemaker and mother of two who lives in Redlands, California.