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A Prayer for the Heart (7): Clean Hands

We came home to Södertälje today. It’s a five hour drive from the hospital in Göteborg. It was really good to walk through that front door again. We have been gone for exactly two weeks. Every bone in my body ached for my bed, feeling tired after the drive. I am used to driving for hours on end, but today I was worn out. And I know my wife felt the same. Physically, as well as mentally, it has been a non-stop roller coaster ride. Naturally, Johannes has been the one in the toughest spot, but we’ve been with him all the way, trying to carry his burdens together with him.

Now that we are home again I just wanted to say thank you – a warm thank you – to everyone who has been so supportive in thought, prayer, and action these past weeks. We can’t fully express the gratitude we feel. You’re all angels.

We have been so blessed. The friendliest and most qualified nurses an doctors have taken care of our son, with some of the world’s best surgeons to perform the open-heart surgery. We have had great accommodations at the Ronald McDonald House (unbelievably great). In addition, physical therapists, hospital school teachers, play therapists, etc, have been unbelievably supportive. I wonder how much all this service, including the surgeries, would translate into dollars, if we would have lived in the US? $ 10-20 000? Maybe more? Compare that to our bill: $ 0. It’s at times like this I don’t mind paying such high taxes.

I also want to give a thought about rooms. Just days before we signed in, we got word that the heart ward was jammed with patients, that we even might have to move the surgery to another hospital. Apparently, this had been working situation for some time now, even until the day before we arrived at the hospital. However, on that Monday morning, things were very quiet, with only a few patients in the ward. After Johannes’ surgery, he was placed in the Intensive Care Unit. In the past this had also been overcrowded. Guess how many patients were there with Johannes? None. When he came down to the ward again, he was placed, as is normal procedure, in a room for four. How many were there? Only Johannes. The day before and the day after it was full house. After he had to do his catheterisation, Johannes was taken to the “wake-up” room. The nurse at duty said that just an hour or so earlier they had had chaos with far to many patients. How many were there when Johannes came? You guessed it. Zero. Finally, in most cases, patients in recovery get their own family room. We were blessed to get one, but not every family that came after us were that fortunate.

We had heard from everyone what a “tight” situation we’d be facing. Both of us had some concerns about this, but Angelica, being the mother, was most worried, of course. But still we always ended up alone in each room we came to. We became especially mindful of it when we came to the “wake-up” room (seen below). My wife and I just looked at each other in awe. We realized, with grateful hearts, that wherever Johannes had been taken, the attendees could always give him their full attention. The whole thing felt like a surreal blessing. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. But still… it felt like the whole thing was… planned?


This shows Johannes – alone patient – coming out of his sleep in the “wake-up” room, next to the operating room. As we were sitting there, by the soft light coming down on our son, feeling grateful for the sole attention given to him, I saw a small poster on the wall. I didn’t see all of the text, but I saw the headline. It stated: “With us you’re in clean hands”. Then I saw, behind the text, a set of unfolding hands.

Maybe this business with the rooms was all a coincidence, but still… when I saw those words together with the hands, I couldn’t stop the swelling inside and watering of my eyes. For me it was a connotation suggesting there were more “clean” hands here than those that met the eye. I turned to Angelica, pointed and said, “Do you see that? Look at those words!” She saw that I was touched by it, but broke my focus by saying, “You know… that’s a notice to keep your hands clean with disinfectant.” I looked a little closer. “Oh, yeah… I see it better now.” She continued, “What did you think it was?” I answered, “Well… I just liked the words.” I saw then what she was thinking as she looked at me. (You see, I have this “work injury” of always, in each surrounding, trying to be alert of things that give some higher meaning, so I can more readily pull out examples and applications in my religious education classes.) “Oh, you’re too much!” she said, as we both broke into a laugh. (We were already in good, giggly kind of mood.)”I know, I’m sorry” I said.

But I still like the words, I thought, praying that this father’s hands were “clean” enough.

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