I hugged the preacher’s neck and commented on how his words and the lyrics sung by the worship team cut into the fears of the current state of the pandemic.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve suited up, taking ragged breaths through all of the gear meant to keep me safe, and walked into the isolation ward at work. It’s quiet back there, aside from the beeps and murmurs of the oxygen tanks running. TV doesn’t placate plagues of this nature.
I always tell my patients how happy I am to see them! It’s easy for them to feel forgotten or even neglected by their loved ones when they have been quarantined, first at the hospital and then in my building. I’ve seen many a birthday cake with only one slice missing and packages left unopened. Even those small comforts lose their shine when celebrating through a screen or by yourself.
As I ask questions during my evaluations, I’m monitoring vital signs and assessing accuracy of speech and swallowing. I’m determining if the patients know where they are and how they got here. Mostly, I’m scaring them by looking like an alien in my protective gear.
I listen to their responses. Often halting and in short phrases. I check their oxygen machines and compare to the number attached to their fingers. I wonder what they usually look like when they are running in the backyard with their grandkids or when they leave the beauty shop. Now, their hair is matted and there’s dried blood where the tubing providing oxygen has dehydrated their nares.
“I feel like I can’t breathe.”
I usually explain how the current virus affects different body systems in different ways. I tell them what to look for and how we’ll take care of them. I hold their hands and pray silently for their returned health, or aloud if they ask me to.
I can hear the rugged respirations from their rooms as I peel off the fogged-up mask and crumple up the gown to be discarded in the biohazard bin. I take a deep breath through an itchy mask and offer a covered-up smile, a little wave. Hoping the patient will be in the same place when I return the next day.
I’ve lost count of how many last breaths I’ve heard. How many tired voices I’ve talked to on the phone with family members. How many other therapists at the hospitals asking for updates on patients they sent me or I sent to them.
Patients struggling for the very breath they need to survive.
It’s your breath in our lungs.
This is a game changer.
Our pastor reiterated that the very life we breathe was first breathed into us by God. He made us and breathed us into existence.
And now, here we are struggling to breathe because of a virus. Or an anxiety attack.
I miss the days of not being able to catch my breath from laughing too hard. Or when my kids have been playing and building forts all afternoon and come to me huffing and puffing. Or from running while conditioning my body.
I can’t help but think about this pandemic and how God is still working miracles through it. Has He eradicated the virus? No. But has He been able to flex what He is capable of during it? Absolutely.
I listened to the worship leaders and to the rhythm of the music. It sounded a bit like a pulse. Like blood pumping through the body. Blood that carries oxygen. Blood that was unworthy, now redeemed. Blood that has been replaced by the blood of the Lamb that has the same resurrecting power that raised Him from the dead. That gives us the ability to breathe easy, knowing we have been rescued.
So, as I squeeze the hands of my patients this week, I’ll share these words with them. I hope they encourage you, too, sweet friend. I know you’re worried about your work, your parents, your kids starting back to school. I know you’ve been fighting your own illness, and fear falling victim to this virus. I know you’re feeling the weight of having a taste of freedom and now retreating again.
As Pastor Todd said, God did not give us a spirit of fear. We can place our trust in something higher than ourselves, someone who breathed his last breath to fulfill God’s covenant with his people. All the while knowing He would return to breathe his Holy Spirit upon them to lead and guide us.
We have to keep gearing up, putting on the full armor of God, and offering a breath of fresh air to those around us.
With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God.
Genesis 2:7 “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Mark 15:37 “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”
John 20:22 “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”