An opportunity almost lost
August 23, 2009
During a busy clinic I was asked by one of the clinical officers if I would be willing to walk over to the medical clinic and see a patient with him. I was happy to help. He took me into a room where a young woman of 19 had been brought to the hospital by her family. Immediately upon entering the room there was the overwhelming odor of a terrible infection. The family said she had a chronic skin disease and four days before she had suddenly developed open, draining sores covering most of her body, sparing only parts of her head and face. When I examined her, 80% of her body was covered with open, draining, bleeding sores that were adherent to and soaking through her clothes. When I saw her for the first time, my heart went out to her. As I looked into her eyes I saw a combination of pain, and despair and a longing plea for hope and help I’ll never forget when the clinical officer asked me if I would be willing to take care of this patient. I remember thinking that I was not only willing, but honored to be asked to care for her.
We immediately took her to the ward, gave her some pain medicine, and slowly and gently several of the interns and nurses pulled her infection-soiled clothes off of her, ever-so-gently applied medical salve to all her wounds and carefully covered them with pure white, sterile bandages. As I watched the scene I was reminded of the Good Samaritan who “went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34) When I saw her the next morning on rounds, she looked totally different, she was smiling and in no pain, still surrounded by her loving family.
Later that night I got a call from one of the resident doctors informing me that one part of her bandages had become soaked with blood (not at all unusual) and that she (Dr. Rosalind) had immediately attended her, making sure she was OK , changing and reinforcing her bandages. About an hour later we were stunned when the nurses said she had suddenly become short of breath and despite all measures to resuscitate her, she had passed into eternity. All of us where overwhelmed with sadness and grief.
I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night as I thought about the fact that I had never asked her or her family if she knew Jesus as her personal Savior. I had assumed that I would have many more days caring for her in the hospital, time to ask her about her faith and give her an opportunity to accept Jesus. But now, all I could do was grieve the opportunity lost.
The next morning at 6 a.m. rounds I discussed this patient with the residents and interns. We discussed the fact that we didn’t know her eternal destiny and that next time, we (myself included), needed to make sure we talk to our patients about their relationship with Jesus before it was too late. Dr. Rosalind gently interrupted when she said, “Dr. Osteen, when I changed her dressing last night, I asked her if she was a Christian. She wasn’t—so I had the opportunity to lead her in a prayer of salvation”—less than an hour before she passed into eternity.
So the lesson I learned, is to never assume that you have another opportunity to ask people if they know Jesus as their Savior. Take advantage of the moment, you may not have another. Thank God Dr. Rosalind was there to attend her; thank God she took the time to ask her if she was assured of her salvation, thank God she took the time to lead her into a prayer that allowed this sick little girl to pass from death into life. At the moment she prayed, Jesus removed the soiled, foul-smelling clothes (filthy rags) of her old life and had replaced them with new garments white as snow. And because of that we will spend eternity together in heaven.