Aug 13, 2020
If you’ve ever stepped foot in the hospital, perhaps you’ve heard this question. “On a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the worst pain that you’ve ever felt in your life and 0 being no pain at all, how would you describe your pain?” As a nurse, I’ve asked this question hundreds if not thousands of times. I often get the answer of “12” or “200.” Sometimes I get one of those responses from a patient calmly texting their relatives or watching Price is Right. On the mission field, we also treat pain in our clinics. But just like at home, our patients often need more than a pain pill.
Chief Complaint: Lower back pain
I read the agony on his tear-stained face long before the chief complaint on his paper. Unable to sit, he clutches his back while his children assist him to my table in Fiji. He shares his medical history, and we discuss prevention and treatment of kidney stones. Then, I scrawl “acetaminophen” on his paper.
Chief Complaint: Abdominal pain
I ask my Guatemalan patient to describe his pain. He shares his heartbreaking tale, and I wait eagerly for the interpretation. I soon learn that his abdominal pain stems from Stage IV cancer. Our free medical clinic within a small school can do little to accommodate him. At home in the U.S., he would be set up with an intense pain regimen. In fact, there’d be an entire team of doctors and nurses devoted to managing his pain. But here, I simply write “ibuprofen” on his paper.
Chief Complaint: Headaches
I ask a thin, nervous-looking Moldovan woman when her pain started. What makes it better or worse? I use my “PQRST” questions from nursing school. After some initial uncertainty, she opens up that her headache began after an especially bad trauma from her ex. We talk. We pray. We ensure her safety. I transcribe “acetaminophen” on her paper.
On our trips our pharmacy is limited, but thankfully a pain pill is only the beginning of our ministry not the end.
While we are able to treat the vast majority of our patients right in the clinic setting, there are also patients whose conditions require more extensive care. We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with local healthcare providers in the communities where we work, so that our patients are provided with a plan for continued healing long after our team has left the field. There is no certainty that this Fijian will never get another kidney stone, but he can be certain of his position in Christ. After the acetaminophen, he’ll hear all about it. My Guatemalan friend dying of cancer, yes, he received ibuprofen. But then he heard of the Savior who died for him and offers peace and hope after death. The woman in an abusive relationship, yes, she received treatment for her headache. But she was also introduced to a pastor and church who will share their love and the love of a Savior with her. Christ can be her Shelter, her Rock, her Hiding Place. All of our patients need more than a pain pill. They need the Savior. That pain pill may just be a piece in pointing them there. There is a Healer!