Katie Koles presented this reflection as part of the sermon – January 28, 2017
It is my belief that God positions all people in situations to do His work. As nurses, we are invited to be present at critical moments in people’s lives. And I believe that nurses are the threads God uses to help put broken pieces back together for our clients.
I was stationed in England from 1984-1986. During my first year, when I was on my way to work the night shift in the newborn nursery, I came across a two car automobile accident with four critically injured victims. By the time I arrived, the ambulances were there and two of our surgeons just happened to be on the scene as well. I had never experienced anything like that or seen such injuries.
One of the victims was a young active duty man and his girlfriend. She had the best chance of survival and as I was helping her get settled in the stretcher, she told me that her boyfriend was Catholic and, if he was going to die, he would want Last Rites (as we used to call it). After she was situated in the ambulance, I looked up and saw two men in their dress uniforms walking toward the scene. They had been at a formal function that evening. One of them was the Catholic chaplain so the young man was able to receive the sacrament. He had sustained massive injuries and all I could do was stand by the car and talk to him while he slipped away.
I later heard that all of the victims had died. And I didn’t understand it at all. Everyone worked so hard and were at the top of their game. Why did I take that road to work that night instead of the other road I could have taken? Why was I there?
During my last year in England, I worked in the outpatient OB-GYN clinic. We had an active duty woman named Jayne who was pregnant. I met her at the beginning of her pregnancy and despite the personal problems she had, she was the type of person who simply lit up any room she entered.
While I was working in the clinic, I had been selected to go to Flight Nursing School in the summer of 1986. I was elated! I wanted to take care of patients on our aeromedical evacuation planes and this put me a step closer to that goal. However, there were deep funding cuts that fiscal year and my orders for Flight Nursing School were cancelled. While I usually take disappointment in stride, I really had difficulty accepting this.
One day in August, I had to go off-base to pay my rent and then come back to base for a hair appointment. My schedule was tight but I was delayed leaving base by three distinct events.
When I was driving back to base from the real estate agent office, I came across two cars stopped in the middle of the road and an active duty pilot and an Air Force wife were running toward a car in a ditch. When I got out of my car and they saw my uniform, the woman yelled, “She’s hurt bad and she’s pregnant!” I raced over to the car in the ditch and saw that it was Jayne. And she was seven months pregnant.
I told the woman to go back to the base and have the gate guard notify the hospital to send the ambulance and jaws of life. Jayne was badly injured and pinned in the vehicle. She sustained orthopedic injuries and a head injury. And she was not breathing because the position of her head was blocking her airway. We all know NEVER to move an accident victim’s head in case there are neck and spine injuries. But I did anyway. And the crowd that had now gathered started to yell at me. I just said, “I have no choice, she’s not breathing.” When I moved Jayne’s head, she began to breathe again and was in and out of consciousness.
When the ambulance arrived, the EMTs took over and administered what first aid they could. Then the British Fire Department set to work to extricate Jayne from the car. It was taking a while even though time seemed to stand still. I looked at the group of men who were trying to figure out the best way to get Jayne out of the car. And I noticed one man had grey hair—he was the oldest. And it came to me, in that moment, that he had the most experience. I walked over to him and quietly said, “We still have a chance to save her and the baby. But if she doesn’t get out of that car quickly, we could lose both of them.” And he turned to the rest of the men, gave quiet commands and Jayne was out. I rode back in the ambulance with Jayne and prayed. By the time we arrived at the Emergency Room, the whole medical team was assembled and ready for her. My part was over.
My mental health nurse friend Lew and I picked up beer and pizza and went back to my house. And if any of you have mental health friends, you know that they have to “process” everything. And that evening was no exception.
And suddenly, it was like I was on the road on Damascus. I realized that my being at that other car accident prepared me for Jayne’s. I realized that had I been at Flight Nursing School, I would not have been at Jayne’s accident.
I also realized that while I believe “things happen for a reason”, we, as humans, do not have the ability to understand God’s Divine Plan. When my Flight School orders were cancelled, if God had said to me, “Katie, you can’t go to Flight School right now because on August 19th, I’ll need you to be at Jayne’s car accident,” I would have argued just Jonah in the Bible passage Father Ned talked about last week. I would have said, “There are smarter people, more experience peopled who could do a better job. And why is Jayne going to be in a car accident anyway, what are you thinking?” And, had there been an answer to those questions, I would not have understood them.
The Christian author, Louis Evely wrote the following in his book, “That Man is You”
“Let’s look at it this way:
God needed someone,
where we are now,
to guide this child,
to comfort this man or woman,
to perform this job,
to prove His love
Yes, God could have done everything all by Himself, but He so made the world
that things wouldn’t be as good that way. “
It is my belief that all of us- the surgeons, the priest, the people at Jayne’s car—were placed at these events for God’s reasons. If I had not been delayed leaving and returning to base, I would not have been at the accident. And I WAS the right person to be there—I knew Jayne’s medical history. When the ambulance arrived, I radioed back to base to the Emergency Room and made sure all the required physicians were waiting for us.
On my birthday, October 25th, I boarded a flight back to the States for my next assignment in Texas. And while I never had a Flight Nursing assignment, I DID get to attend Flight School the following year. Little did I know that as I was on that plane, Jayne was in labor.
As nurses, we do not usually get to see the end of the story. But a few weeks after I arrived at my new base, I received a letter from Jayne and a photograph of her beautiful, perfect, healthy son. She named him Joshua which means “God is Salvation”.
Though I never met Joshua, or held him, I am grateful God made me a thread in the tapestry of Joshua’s and Jayne’s lives. Just as they, and all the others I’ve cared for have become been woven into the tapestry of my own life. Because I tell you this honestly—Nursing has given more to me than I have ever given to nursing.