Celebrating Miracles with Patients
It’s been a while since one of my patients has made such a quick and miraculous recovery. To be fair, it’s been a while since I’ve cared for patients at all, since I was in the US for 14 weeks and then I was sick for an extra week soon after getting back. But I met this 58-year old last week. His brother, a local academician, scheduled him for a visit with me while he was in town for the holidays. He had a stroke a couple years ago and has struggled with high blood pressure ever since. Even though he was on three blood pressure medications and attending the most specialized blood pressure clinic in the country, his pressure was always high and now the family was concerned about confusion and deterioration as well.
He was the type of patient who got my own blood pressure a bit higher. At 196/118, it seemed like a matter of time until he had his next stroke. To be honest, I was concerned that he had irreversible kidney disease – I haven’t often seen pressures that high which didn’t either cause or come from damaged kidneys. But last week we praised God when the kidney tests came back normal. That meant that I had a lot more freedom in the doses of medication he could take, and a lot more hope that the medications could help. Last week we thanked God that the tests looked relatively normal, and then we prayed for miraculous healing, of both blood pressure and confusion. And he had been on my heart and in my mind and prayers for the following week. I called his brother just yesterday to make sure he would come back for his appointment. I didn’t want to waste any time when every day at that blood pressure could mean another stroke.
But this week we saw a miracle. All I did was change one short-acting medication to a longer acting blood pressure medication in the same class, and I handed the brother some information about lifestyle – about reducing salt and increasing vegetables. Even during the Christmas holidays, the family ensured that meals were healthier. His brother walked with him every day. And I couldn’t believe his blood pressure today. Studies show that one blood pressure medication can be expected to improve blood pressure by about 10 points. But this patient had an improvement of 94 points – ten times the expected benefit. I had to double check his pressure in my office myself. It was 138/82. I couldn’t have imagined anything better. I asked him a couple times if he had side effects – most people who have such a dramatic drop in pressure will have headache or dizziness even as they come into the normal range. But he was fine. In fact, he was feeling stronger and his brother said that his confusion was even improving.
The family tried to act like the improvements were due to my own professional capabilities, but I had to set them straight, I knew what the science showed and just how little my medications and my advice could do. A miraculous turnaround deserves a prayer of thanksgiving to God. So we prayed this time a prayer of celebration, giving thanks where thanks were due. And I affirmed the family, they had done such a good job supporting their family member.
I’m so blessed to have an inordinate number of miracle patients. I admit, wanting to see miracles was one of the reasons I wanted to practice in missions in the first place. It’s a blessing to journey with patients and celebrate with them. Some see their blood pressure or blood sugar drop by half in a week. Others go from severest depression to the mildest symptoms in two years. Some I continue to pray for, never knowing if that first difficult consultation will be our last. These days, I do spend more and more time working to try to improve systems and plan programs and help communities. But I can’t imagine ever not seeing patients, being part of their story of how God brings healing in ways both miraculous and ordinary.