Friday Night Foley

I once remember reading that the divine will not enter into our life unless invited. Well it was 5:30 on a Friday – and there I was, inviting…

It had been a busy week, in fact a busy past 12 days of work, so by 5:30 Friday evening, I was ready to go. I remember walking quickly intention set on making my escape. I remember my indignation that evening as I had to pass every patient room, the nurses’ station, and administration offices on my way out of the front of the Rehab Hospital instead of the back…you see someone had parked in my parking spot out back, and the only open parking was in the front of the building. The nerve!

In my mind, I had served my time- a week of work last week and work over the weekend followed by another Monday to Friday stint; and I had already stayed later than I had planned; and I should not have had to park in front… but no, my parking space next to the rear door of the building had been taken earlier that day, and now I had to dodge families as they gathered for the evening visit, dodge past the nurses who always had some need for you even if its to report how well some patient did in rehab that day. I walked quickly, like a track athlete picking up speed to take on the first hurdle in order to make my escape!

Such was my constitution when I heard the dreaded words,

“Oh Doctor Rappa, is he yours?”

And ‘yes’, he was mine.

I poked my head in the door to see desperation on the nurses’ faces, as they stood in gown and gloves with masks pulled down to their chins, standing over an 83 year old man, who needed a Foley catheter placed due to a distended bladder. He was in the bed, perspiring, poorly able to talk, partially paralyzed, a stroke patient on the Rehab unit.

Prior to my arrival, two different nurses had tried to pass a Foley catheter to decompress his bladder- a Foley catheter is a small tube- I call it a garden hose- which must be inserted from outside, past the prostate gland, and up into the bladder. It’s done all the time in the medical world. But in this young man of 83, the passage way was narrowed and the pass was not easy. And even Carla had tried…and I think the world of Carla.

“Shall we send him to the ER to get the tubed placed?” she asked me, more a suggestion than a question…. She was one of the best nurses I had come across, and I respected her greatly. In my head I thought…they are struggling, they need help…ER, Friday night…could be hours before he gets there and gets the tube placed. He’s struggling, needs help…

“Let me try,” I told them. I was pretty good with tubes and procedures, so just maybe…

But, no go. He was old, his prostate was enlarged, the passageway inflamed and swollen from the past failed attempts, and after two attempts with two sets of sterile kits, I was losing confidence in my own ability to float the tube.

That’s when I did the surrender…

I stepped back, broke out of my gown and gloves, and asked for the last kit we had…the last tube available.

Standing by the window, waiting for the new sterile kit, I remember how my demeanor had changed. I went from indignation on my way down the hall; to hubris thinking I can succeed where my nurses had failed; to embarrassment that I had failed, and then finally to genuine concern. At this point, I was genuinely concerned that this gentleman was struggling.

I did the surrender. I raised my arms out to the side, looked up, and out loud I said,

“Please help him. Whoever is with us here, please help him.” At one level, I believe that there are guides and masters who exist, who are there. At another level, I am not convinced I have access to them… but there was one thing I did believe… I of my self cannot do this…

I remember the deep concern I now had for him; for his well being; and remembered the prayer of Saint Francis…an instrument of peace. So I asked to be an instrument…

“Last try,” I said.

I thought I’d try to float the Foley one more time, and if I could not get it, then we’ll go to the ER and get the Urologist on call…

Luckily, the gods and spirit masters were not overly inconvenienced at the late hour, or the day of the week, and they were kind enough to ignore my lack of complete faith in their presence…and we placed that catheter despite swelling, blood, a swollen prostate and my slippery hands drenched in sweat beneath my sterile gloves.

Amazement, relief, and joy followed…I genuinely thanked, I mean from the heart, Carla, for staying with me, for helping me with the procedure. She brought a quiet confidence from her own calm, and I had known that for a few months now…When all was clear, I dictated a note and left again. 7 pm.

Trying to avoid eye contact with anyone else, I made my way down the hall and out the door. In my car, I looked up…

“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you…” not sure to whom, but convinced my prayers had been answered.

And maybe it was in my mind, maybe it was a ‘natural’ medical, scientific occurrence, but I believe it was more…

I was grateful that my patient did not have to go to the ER. And I was grateful that I was able to pass the tube. I was grateful to be there…whether in my mind or in reality, I felt like I was a witness to a power greater than mine …like the divine when it touches us, here in the real world…I know, I could not have passed that catheter on my own, and if only for one brief moment, I felt like an instrument of Peace. Joy…Glory be…

Driving home that night my mind went into overdrive…Many things had to go wrong for this moment to come into being. I remember thinking that this patient was truly my angel…he taught me the power of Humility, the power of surrender…I am convinced that moment of surrender was the key…that catheter was not going to float pushed from hubris and pride…the parking spot caper…that person was my angel…gave me opportunity to be there, to help…the makings of that event went into play hours before, when an unsuspecting visitor parked in my spot…no coincidences, no accidents in the universe- uni-verse… one verse all things tied together.

And so on I go, in the Matrix, walking on, knowing, forgetting, knowing that eventually, I will be back at home.

About the Author

Peter J. Rappa M.D.

Peter J. Rappa, M.D. is the author of Healing Heart to Soul, which recounts experiences he has had as a healthcare professional. 

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