I had a first-hand experience of A & E after church on Sunday 19th of June. On the Saturday I had been walking in the woods when I tripped on a branch and fell headlong onto the floor; striking my right arm on a log. As I got up from the floor, I thought I had survived unscathed apart from a slight bump on my arm.
Over the next few hours, the pain got worse and by the following morning my upper right arm was very painful and I couldn’t move it. I managed to complete the morning service: I’m not going to say anything about washing, shaving, dressing etc. one-handed. After the service, it was made clear to me that I should get the arm looked at. Sevenoaks has a reduced service and no X-ray facilities over the weekend so it meant a trip to Pembury. Tony volunteered to take me, for which I am very grateful. Unfortunately, the A21 was down to one lane, busy and very slow. I’m not looking for sympathy; the whole incident was precipitated by my stupidity.
In the short time I was there I saw a young woman securely strapped on a bed with a neck brace and several medical staff surrounding her as she was taken in for an X-ray. A child with his head heavily bandaged, several people in wheelchairs with leg and hip injuries, a broken collar bone, a broken wrist; the list goes on. Irritatingly, the people next to me insisted on talking, which hindered my listening to the catalogue of injuries being described at reception as more people came in.
Selfishly, as I watched this growing number of serious injuries surround me, I expected the triage nurse to move me further down the list of people waiting to be seen. But, not so, I was surprised how quickly and smoothly everything happened and I was able to leave.
From arriving at A&E to leaving took 1 hour 40 minutes. It was calm and professional. On leaving there were many more people waiting to be seen, and the queue of people waiting to get in was out of the doors. My problem was minor; no fracture or dislocation, just deep bruising causing the paralysis. A sling, paracetamol, and time would solve the problem.
As I left, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and was reminded of something from my past. When in Kosovo after peace had been established, the various countries involved in the conflict opened their medical facilities to the general public. The crowds were enormous. People came from miles away to receive medical attention, the first available after years of deprivation. Their joy and gratitude was exuberant and moving.
When Jesus entered a community crowds flocked to him, they had heard of his ability to heal the sick and injured. Health and well-being are valuable gifts that can be so easily taken for granted. A wonderful health service can lull us into a false sense of security; more than physical well-being is our spiritual well-being. In my first appointment after leaving college I did the NHS training to be a hospital chaplain, which was part of that appointment.
It wasn’t a large hospital, but when visiting the wards patients, and relatives, wanted to talk. Sickness and injury had brought out their vulnerabilities, and for some reason, they would talk to the chaplain. I suspect it’s not so easy today, but then, people were happy for me to pray with them. I was happy to spend time clapping the NHS on Thursday evenings during lockdown; it became something of a social occasion in the street. Sometimes I think I miss it. But, what was significant and is challenging, no one has ever suggested giving thanks to God for life, health or the Son who offers eternal life. People care much about their physical well-being but not so much for their soul.
Heavenly Father, thank You for those in the community who provide care and support for the sick, injured and damaged. But forgive us, when we forget to say thank you to you; the living God, creator, and Sustainer of all. Amen.