Leading up to Christmas 2017 Pastor Lee asked a few people in the Cedar Park community to reflect on their own work as first responders and how it might relate to the incarnation – God’s act of coming alongside those who suffer. Longtime member and current Elder Janelle Tarnow, wrote the following.
I absolutely love being an Emergency Room nurse. It’s a blessing and an honour, but it’s definitely not always easy. A few months ago a young, healthy and active man got rushed into my trauma room. He was unresponsive and having a massive heart attack. Seconds later, his heart stopped. We spent nearly two hours doing absolutely everything we could to bring him back. My brain was on overdrive with sweat dripping off my forehead and adrenaline pumping through my veins. I was not ready to give up. I couldn’t give up. What if this was my brother lying here?
My brain was on overdrive with sweat dripping off my forehead and adrenaline pumping through my veins.
It eventually became clear that there was nothing else we could do. We pronounced his death at 1152. Then came the unthinkable. I had to go with the Doctor and tell his wife that her husband was dead. I had to physically hold her up as she collapsed in my arms. I had to walk her into the trauma room to see her husband’s lifeless body. And I had to see her two young children sobbing uncontrollably who were probably too young to even grasp they will never get to see their Dad again. All while doing everything I could to hold back my own tears and not completely break down myself. I needed to be strong for her. Minutes later, I got called away to be notified another critically ill patient was coming in. I took a moment to cry uncontrollably in the staff bathroom, take a few deep breaths, wipe the mascara from my cheeks, pull myself together, put on a smile and go help a new patient–someone else’s loved one.
I couldn’t sleep for days after this. Every time I would close my eyes I would picture the wife’s face when she heard the tragic news. I would see the patient’s life-less body. I would replay the entire case agonizing over if there was anything else we could of done. Could we have saved his life? Did we do absolutely everything possible? Does the wife blame me? Weeks later, a card got delivered to the ER department. It was from the wife. She was thanking us for doing everything we could to save her husband. She thanked me for being there for her and her kids after they found out. She thanked me for showing emotion and showing that I cared. It felt surreal.
I’m told pretty regularly at work that I’m “too soft”. That I need to just “give it time and death won’t affect me as much.” I don’t want to become immune to death and the tragedies that people are facing. My Mom died when I was 19 and I made a vow that I would be the kind of nurse that could bring comfort to others facing the unimaginable. I don’t want to be closed off and jaded. Being empathetic comes with a cost however. I can leave feeling emotionally drained and vulnerable. This is when I need to rely on God for his strength. I’m constantly reminded how precious life is.
Being an ER nurse is emotionally, physically and mentally draining but moments like this remind me why it is all worth it. I love that I get to be there for patients and families when they are going through some of their worst times. It’s worth it if I can bring just a little bit of peace, hope, and comfort to their lives when they are being consumed by darkness. I like to think this is how Jesus would respond as well. Even in the midst of tragedy, Jesus is right there with you. He is holding you up and making sure you know you are not alone. His heart breaks with us, he takes on all of our wounds and hurts and does so out of love and without any resentment.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Listen to the Christmas Eve sermon that feartures Janelle’s comments as well as insights from of first responders at Cedar Park.