It takes events like a trip to the ER for a fishbone lodged in your throat to make you appreciate the most basic things operating ‘as they ought’. We sat down for dinner on a normal, quiet Saturday evening. I was glad to have the weekend off from work to rest, be with my husband, and worship with my church family. But with that first spoonful of soup slid one small, sharp, insidious bone that decided it didn’t quite want to be eaten alive by my stomach juices quite yet, so it parked itself in my esophagus, just past my vocal chords. After a big, painful swig of water, a few meek attempts at swallowing, and some tentative coughing, I just pictured this bone digging itself deeper and deeper into my throat muscles, and I could imagine the nurses describing me in their handoff report to each other: Adult Asian female, aspiration on a fish bone, inflamed esophagus, pneumothorax, chest tube in place, on antibiotics for pneumonia. OK, so I’m a little paranoid, but after some of the crazy stories I’ve seen and heard at work, this is where my mind goes now.
So off to the ER we went. I walked myself up to the check-in desk while the husband parked the car, and with no small amount of embarrassment, I rolled my eyes and told the gentleman at the desk, “I… have a… fish bone stuck in my throat.” To my relief, neither he nor the other staff seemed particularly surprised by my dilemma. After some X-rays, the ER doctor tried giving me a couple of muscle relaxants in hopes that the fish bone might become loose enough to make its way out of my throat, but to no avail. The gastroenterologist had to drive in from a couple hours away to eventually knock me out with Morphine and Versed – which I now have a new appreciation for – to put an endoscope down my throat and hopefully pluck out the bone with some forceps. Too bad the medications didn’t last long enough for me to stay asleep before he finished. I awoke quite suddenly with the scope down my throat and was quite convinced I was about to vomit the bone and other goodies out onto the doctor’s sparkly white lab coat. Fortunately for all our sakes, we were spared of such pleasantries. The doctor removed the scope only to announce he did not see the bone, that it must have passed down my throat at some point prior to his arrival. Alas, it will remain a mystery as to when or how that bone made its way out of my esophagus. I apologized to the doctor that he had to drive four hours round-trip to not find this elusive fish bone. We got home at 3AM, tired but more amused than anything at what had just happened. It was supposed to be a simple Saturday evening dinner of leftover fish soup. So much for a routine weekend.
With the luxury of self-scheduling at work, routine is thrown out the window since my work hours can and do change week to week. It is both incredibly wonderful and slightly disorienting. Friends and family are never quite sure when I am free. I’m never quite sure myself. My weekdays become weekends, and I perpetually lose track of what day of the week it is. You miss out on family traditions when you have to work holidays. Somehow, fireworks on July 6th just don’t have the same effect.
I most definitely now have a new appreciation for routine. One of the many reasons I went into nursing was because of the variety that each day and each patient can bring. It is exhilarating to always be learning in such a dynamic and challenging environment. It can also be tiring and extremely humbling. I am finding that the right doses of routine can help to center us, quiet our busy minds and hearts, and help us regain our footing on what is familiar and dependable.
I think this is partly why God created seasons. The sunrise and the sunset. The rhythms in our body that tell us to sleep and wake. The peace we find when our homes are clean and in order. After all, what if we awoke one morning and found that the sun did not rise, that the moon stayed out until noon? I can only imagine what our reactions might be. We need a fundamental level of routine; more than that, we need the One it points us to as our foundation when things start to get shaken up.
Storms will still come, life will still be full of rude interruptions, and yes, embarrassing trips to the ER for a fishbone in the throat will sometimes happen. But at the end of the day, our bodies will still tell us it’s time to rest in the faithful hand of the One who will assuredly still cause the sun to rise and the sun to set, just as we expect.