Last Wednesday was my 36th birthday. Somewhere along the way, I guess I started to fall into the trap of thinking that on my birthday, everything is supposed to go “my way.” It’s my special day, all about me, etc etc. The kids are supposed to sleep in, I’m not supposed to have to work, other people will cook all my meals for me, and in general I will spend the day with my feet up eating chocolate. When I write it out, it sounds a bit ridiculous but never the less, those are the subconscious or slightly conscious thoughts rolling around in my head every time a birthday comes up.
Well, things didn’t exactly go “my way” last Wednesday. For one thing, we were having medical visitors from Buja up for the day and I had agreed not only to meetings but to provide lunch for everyone as well. I figured it would only make the day slightly more busy. Ha. The medical visitors showed up minutes after the power cut out (which was to be a 28 hr outage, something obviously not known at the time). I pushed away thoughts of my failing crockpot dinner out of my mind and spent some time talking about cervical cancer screening. Half an hour later, we were ready to head up to the hospital to check out the ultrasound machine when a hospital worker came literally running up to my door. This is significant, because no one runs here. There was a lady at the hospital with a ruptured uterus. She needed help, immediately. While I was trying to rearrange the visitors’ schedules quickly, I received calls from both Eric and Greg, trying to get ahold of me for this emergency. Time to go.
I spent the next several hours in the OR, performing a hysterectomy and trying to stop the giant puddle of blood on the floor from growing larger. The patient was on an adrenaline drip to keep her heart rate up and had actually received SIX units of blood (previously unheard of here). The rupture had started at the top of her uterus and continued all the way down the left uterine wall and then backwards into her retroperitoneum up towards her renal vein and artery. Friends, I was WAY out of my league. I put in stitch after stitch and finally stuck in a bunch of surgicel and started praying that the bleeding would stop. It did, or at least it stopped enough to close her up. I had minimal hopes that she would survive, but thanks to great anesthesia care (there’s a reason they call Greg the “Reanimationist” in French) she not only made it through the day, but I’m hoping she will be going home this week. Miraculous.
The miracle wasn’t exactly the focus of my day, though. I returned home over an hour late to the lunch I was supposed to be preparing. The power was out the rest of the day. The phone networks were down. The kids were grumpy. What kind of a birthday was this after all? Blah. But now that a few days have passed, I’ve had some time to reflect. Greg told me that the chance to save a life on my birthday was perhaps the greatest gift possible. He did say it as a joke, but maybe he was right. Maybe the chance to focus on something other than “my special day” was really what I needed.
What was it that bothered me so much about the day, the fact that I got to go and help a mother of 5 return home to her family and live a (hopefully) long and healthy life? Of course not, that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I think that the problem was that it wasn’t how I PLANNED the day would go. I wasn’t in control of the situation. I wanted my day to look a certain way and it didn’t. But who’s to say it wasn’t a better way to spend the day? Perhaps the birthday gift was, in the end, a stripping away of my closely held illusions of control. When are we ever, really, in control of everything around us? Perhaps the scattered, fragmented, crazy day was a reminder to me of who directs my steps, who holds me in the palm of his hand, and who is ultimately in control of everything around me.