As I sat at a table with a Cappuccino Grande placed in front of me, the only decent sized china mug among tall paper cups adorning other tables around me, I sat alone and watched a young daughter throwing tantrums as her mother refused to give her the treat "until we get home" -while her younger brother, not much older than two years and with lovely golden blond hair, came right up close to me, and gazed up at the gentleman sitting about four to five feet away, to whom he fixed his curious stare. Instantly his mother beckoned him over, and presently the family, with the daughter still in tears, moved on.
Sipping coffee at Starbucks was a tonic in physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The sound of daily hustle and bustle within had reminded me that I'm back in the real world once again, watching living people going about their business, with the aromatic atmosphere of a coffee bar enhancing the experience. It was a contrast to within the last twelve days when two of my friends took my wife and myself to Harefield Hospital, just outside Greater London, to register for an open heart operation which would take place the following morning. After registration and a ward bed assigned, the three of us, (the fourth who brought us, already on his way home) made our way to settle in a ground floor room at Parkwood House, an astonishing three to four hundred metre walk from the hospital itself, but still within its grounds. Here I made sure that both my wife, who has mobility limitations, and our friend who would become her carer, were both settled in to be close to me during the procedure.
Being given a sedative pill shortly before being transferred from bed to gurney helped me stay calm as I was then wheeled from ward to theatre. Due to another patient in front of me not being quite ready to move, we were held up in a "traffic jam" within the narrow curved corridor, and I watched the snow fall gently outside, and perhaps feeling thankful that it was not just another work day. What seemed like eternity, but in reality about two to three minutes, the gurney in front of mine started to move, and mine was pushed behind it, with Alex and Sharon keeping up with the porters. After a fairly long walk, including a corridor built entirely of glass and fully capable of keeping meat frozen solid for a week or two, we halted in front of the theatre doors, where I looked upon both Alex and Sharon as I was wheeled in, as they couldn't proceed any further. Alex looked into my eyes, and I into hers, and that was it. After being asked a series of identity questions, I was led into a room which within the anaesthetist jabbed a couple of needles into the back of my right hand.
What seemed like just a few minutes later I became conscious of lying down in complete darkness and I clearly heard the voice of my wife Alex calling out:
I love you, I love you, I love you.
With much effort, I replied, I love you too.
Then the voice spoke again:
He loves me! See, he loves me!
Although I was in complete darkness, somehow I sensed the operation was over, and I felt an overwhelming peace come over me. When I did wake up and became fully conscious, I found myself staring at a clock over the door which read three minutes past midnight, in the Intensive Care Unit. I did not take long to fall back to sleep again.
I was out for the count for a solid fifteen hours, of which the first six I was in the theatre. The conversation between Alex and myself took place sometime between four and five o'clock p.m. - seven to eight hours after becoming unconscious, yet to me it seemed just a few minutes since of my awareness in the presence of the anaesthitist.
But as for all the staff at the National Health Service, I had nothing but praise for all of them. In the High Dependency Unit there was this elderly patient who was constantly moaning, refusing to have his oxygen mask over his face, and the ward staff constantly persuading him to wear it. This went on into the small hours, until about 4 a.m. I called the head nurse to my bed and loudly whispered,
That patient is p*****g me off!
How she can remain calm and fully contained amazed me. Sure enough, she must have come across scores of elderly patients who had similar attitudes, yet what she could do, I couldn't. As she carried on persuading him to wear the mask and also explaining that he's keeping other people awake as well, I thought entered my mind - You are not walking in the Holy Spirit.
I considered this a serious matter, and I prayed for control by the Spirit of Christ. This didn't solve the problem in the ward, but it did change my attitude. During breakfast, the surgeons who performed the operation arrived at my bed to check my recovery progress. When they seemed satisfied, I replied my thanks to them for such a professional job from such wonderful men. I then reached out to shake his hand warmly. His appreciative look seem to indicate to me that he wished all patients took on such a grateful attitude instead of grumbling thanklessly over their condition as the one whose bed was next to mine did all night, whom I did approach to say good morning, only to be greeted by a grunt.
But by abiding by the Holy Spirit seemed to have made a particular impact on the catering staff, as well as on other nurses. This fellow, who looked to be from the Mediterranean, looked fed up as he conveyed the meal trolley from the kitchen to the wards. He was fully committed to the task, but what seemed to bother him was the large amount of food being thrown to waste. I am aware that hospital food here in the UK has a bad reputation, enough to appear in the national media, but here at Harefield Hospital, the food was good, as if extra effort was put into the culinary work for greater appeal to us patients. I felt nothing about cleaning the soup bowl and main course plate - it had always been my normal way of life. But what took several days to dawn on me was that this waiter appreciated my enjoyment of the food. By the time his weekly shift rota ended, he singled me out in the ward, beaming from ear to ear, and shook my hand before he left.
Just by showing simple appreciation and respect for such hard working, committed staff, seems to be taken to heart, and they show this by approaching me with a warm, smiling attitude, the result of abiding in the power of the Holy Spirit. Some patients believe that they have their rights - having paid into the national purse all throughout their lives - to demand beck and call on the staff without realising that each nurse has to see to all the patients in the ward, with some having more needs than others.
At the Discharge Ward, where I spent the last three days, I overheard a conversation taking place between a night nurse and a nearby patient. According to this staff member, the cost for just one night spent as an in-patient, with just the nurse to look after him, costs the N.H.S. £450. And that does not include medicine, food, or treatment. I also overheard that medicine costs £13 per item. For example, two Paracetamol pills, one Aspirin, one Ramipril pill, one Ranitidine pill, one Furosemide pill and one Brisopolol pill, would add up to £78 for two to three separate doses, one in the morning, one at lunchtime, and again in the evening. Now if multiplied by seven nights, the cost would be approximately £3,700. Now add the cost of the procedure itself, and the cost would jump into tens of thousand of pounds. This is a reality which no one can claim "patient's rights" to the point of perceiving the nurse as constantly under beck and call. Little wonder that by submitting to the Holy Spirit has made the nurses in our ward feel more worthy of their call, with one of them, an Afro-Caribbean, pampering around me as if I was a celebrity shortly before going home.
My recent experience in hospital was much more than a place to treat an illness. Rather it was a major learning curve in the simple principle of showing love and appreciation to others committed to care. And believe me, they do a very good job, a reflection of Jesus Christ himself, who taught his disciples to heal the sick, among other works of love. While here on earth, he constantly radiated love to all who crossed his path. Great crowds followed, parents brought their children to be blessed, various women burdened with sin and rejected by society found their liberation in him. Some even traversed over long distances in searching for him. He never turned anybody away, but cried out in the Temple precinct that if anyone thirsts, let him come to him, and he will be satisfied. Little wonder that many hospitals bear the name of one of Jesus' disciples, such as St Thomas, St James, and St Bartholomew Hospitals.
Oddly enough, only the religious hated him. And it is a sad, sad fact that over the centuries, churches had crossed swords with each other in theological debates, therefore keeping up the hatred these religious people had against Jesus. Yes, I agree that correct doctrine is essential for the health of the church. Its creeds should be regularly examined and preached. Creeds such as the Trinity, salvation by faith, and the Bible as the authoritative Word of God are essential truths upon every church must rest on these foundations. But if as a hospital patient, if I tried to argue whether salvation can be lost or not, how impressed would the staff had been? Or instead of shaking the surgeon's hand and congratulated him for his fine work, insisted that there will be a Millennium. Would he had been impressed? (I believe he was a Muslim) Or would he had hastened my discharge instead?
If only the churches had preached the Gospel mixed with the love of Christ to the world over the centuries, instead of engaging in in-fighting, would we have a better society than the one we live in now? Perhaps many believers can learn a thing or two from these dedicated medical staff. Maybe if we did, who knows, the N.H.S. may not come to such a high demand as it is today.