A Random Encounter
Updated: May 5
There are moments in life that happen completely out of the blue that force us to open our eyes wide, stand up straight, and take notice. Frequently these moments occur in seasons of life full of boredom, where the mundane repetition of every day life has put our souls to sleep. Even more jolting is when these experiences punctuate days and weeks of suffering with no resolution in sight. These unexpected interruptions in our life (or twists of fate, as some may call it) challenge us to even try to deny the existence of a providential God as we witness the unmistakable evidence of His hands at work. In the early morning hours of a blusteringly cold day in late December, I was sitting in a random imaging waiting room on the 17th floor at Northwestern, waiting for 8am to come around so I could start making phone calls for a same day consult with a cardiothoracic surgeon for a likely sternum infection. Why was I on this floor? Because an address posted online had mistakenly said that this was the floor where the thoracic surgeons saw their out-patients (it was not). It was literally the only floor with a reception area open where I could sit down in a comfy chair and wait. In fact, I had left the floor and hit the elevator to check several floors nearby before my fatigue, nausea, chest pain, and tachycardia took over, so I returned to the 17th floor waiting room to well, wait.
I had just spent an all nighter driving to Chicago after the kids' musical, arrived and spent several hours before being called back to see an emergency room doctor, and then at 5:30am was discharged and told to go get an urgent consult. So here I was, staring at my phone, checking Facebook and Twitter, researching sternum osteomyelitis for the 509th time online, when an older gentleman sitting across from me was called back for his MRI. He told the imaging tech, "Of course, my wife just left to use the restroom and all of her things are here."
I quickly offered to watch her things until she returned. The man joked, "I would totally trust a random stranger in a hospital waiting room, wouldn't you?"
I said, "I'll let her know you were called back." No big deal. I refrained from saying, I'm a farm girl from Wisconsin; of course I can be trusted.
Then the lady returned. I told her that her husband was taken back for his MRI. We struck up a conversation. They were locals, I was not. The gentleman was there for his quarterly MRI for a terminal brain tumor. He had outlived his 6 months-left-to-live prognosis over three years ago. He was a dentist, so upon diagnosis, he had immediately retired, and they set about traveling the world, since he had very little time left to live. After going through both surgery and radiation, he was still here. Every 3 months they hold their breath; and every 3 months, the MRI shows no new tumor growth. They get the results by phone by 10am. Then she told me about her family. She has 3 kids who are a decade younger than myself, have outstanding educations and careers, and are spread across the US. She is picking up one of her daughters from O'Hare that night to spend Christmas with them. She is pregnant with her first. She is having trouble with a heart problem, a tachycardia, that is supposed to be benign, but is quite limiting and worrisome to her daughter. The doctors told her daughter it could not be treated, that there was nothing she could do. The story was familiar. It was inappropriate sinus tachycardia.
I shared with this soon to be grandmother about my experience being pregnant and haveing been diagnosed with inappropriate sinus tachycardia five years ago. I offered the name of a common medicine that worked very well for me, and was quite safe in pregnancy, so her daughter could get her life back a bit for her last 10 weeks of pregnancy. And if it continued well after delivery, the name of another drug to try that is brand new and most doctors are not aware of. Had I known the name of it, it would have saved me a year of consults and unsuccessful trials of other meds that actually put me in the hospital at times they were so unsuccessful. Being as good with technology as I am, I typed the names of the meds in her phone.
When 8am came around, I excused myself to make phone calls to try to get a same day appointment with one of the cardiothoracic surgeons. The lady said she would be praying for me. I walked around the corner to a quiet spot of the waiting room to make what turned out to be no less than 15 calls to get in that day anywhere in the Chicago area with a cardiothoracic surgeon. I mistakenly had thought it would take ten minutes. When I came back around the corner, the couple was gone. I don't even know their names. But what a blessing that in the midst of a not great time in my life, I was able to use my past negative experiences to help others (and they had used theirs to encourage me). Completely random, but isn't God amazing?
I share this story because when we are in the midst of a rough time of life, we wonder what good might come of it. You just never know, even on your lowest and darkest day, God will use you to help others. You may never see that big, wide open road in front of you with a road sign saying: this is your path, His will and His plan for your life. But never give up! Never guess why. Rest assured that you are loved, and His will, plan, and purpose are where you are and right where you need to be!
Jill Murphy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of MotionWorks Physical Therapy and an advocate for patient-centered care. A Christian mom of three, she survived a seven year journey through the broken American healthcare system in search for an answer to a heart arrhythmia that appeared during pregnancy. A stroke, open heart surgery for constrictive pericarditis, and several other surgeries later, Jill is telling her story of unfailing resilience in her upcoming book, Doctor Heal Thyself.
Having grown up on a dairy farm 40 minutes from Lambeau Field, Jill is an avid Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan, and is up for any activity with her three children, including walking, biking, throwing the football around, hiking in scenic locales, gardening, playing piano, singing, and coaching a middle school basketball game or two.