Monday morning I arrived at the hospital for some outpatient blood work that my doctor scheduled to help determine what was causing the intense and ever-more frequent abdominal pains I'd been having for days. After getting to the hospital at 8:00am on Monday I didn't come home until last night at 7:00pm. In between those times was an unplanned and undesirable stay in a hospital room. This might not sound like a big deal to those of you who have made several such stays (and it really wasn't a big deal by comparison) but to someone who rarely gets sick, has never broken a bone (sans one rib busted at a youth camp), and cringes at the sight of a needle this was not a happy experience.
Don't misunderstand me, all the nurses- Christina, Autumn, Phillis, and Leigh were great as were my doctors and the other hospital workers. The care was excellent, but it is still a hospital. Right now there's still no answers- after more blood work, CT Scan, and an ultrasound- and I'm on a liquid diet with antibiotics and ordered rest, but I'm genuinely thankful for the experience. It help me to empathize with my fellow church members who I often visit during their hospital stays. There is a great difference between sympathy (feeling for someone) and empathy (feeling with someone). A pastor should always have sympathy but it is even better and possibly more comforting to the congregation when he can have empathy.
I can certainly empathize with the frustration of being put through the ringer being poked, prodded, and tested without having any answers. I now understand the cabin fever one can get being stuck on a bed as time seems to stand still- hours feel like days. It is more real to me how one feels trying to get the sleep you need in a place where it is nearly impossible to sleep soundly. I understand watching loved ones- in my case my wife Blair- go through the pain and frustration right next you emotionally. It makes sense when someone is so thankful for that first jello cup but is happy if he's had his last when he leaves. I can relate to being elated when the nurse comes to take your blood pressure at 3:30am because it breaks up the monotony or how joyous it is to have a visitor (even if you relish your privacy) because you start feeling like a lab rat after a while without genuine personal interaction (thank you). I can better appreciate those phone calls that comfort the patient but especially the nervous spouse (thank you). I can understand the comfort of having someone take your mind off the circumstances and then to put the circumstances at the Lord's feet in prayer (thank you Keith Meyer). I appreciate more clearly the encouragement that comes from knowing that many others are praying and are concerned (thank you).
I'm thankful that while this wasn't brain surgery... or surgery at all and it was only one night's stay it taught me a lot. Every pastor should spend a few hours from the other side of the hospital bed... just make sure it's nothing serious.