Lessons from ICU. 18. Courage
During my stay at ICU, I used to wake up at early in the mornings, because of how I slept during my sickness. So, one morning, I was wide awake at 3 AM and was praying, when something happened.
The patient next to me was handcuffed to his bed as he was creating lots of trouble for the nurses and was threatening to run away from the ICU. As the MD intern who was in charge of ICU was doing her rounds, this patient complained about this and she asked the nurses to un-cuff his hands. The nurses objected, but the intern was not bothered. It was 3 AM and the patient would be too tired to try anything, she said. But once his hands were released, it took less than 5 minutes for that patient to jump out from his bed and to start a commotion. He started running between the ICU beds, bothering all the patients who were sleeping. The nurses were trying to contain him, but the intern who gave the order to release the patient ran out, saying that she was going to call the security. I was watching her and she ran out of the ICU, but she did not call out the security; instead she was watching the whole thing, hiding behind the doors. Apparently she was scared what that patient would do.
Later I found that she did not call the security, because then there would have been an enquiry and she might have been implicated for her role in releasing the patient. So, she just stood there, waiting for the nurses to get the situation under control. Soon, they managed to do that and he was handcuffed again.
Then this intern called her friend, who was also in charge of ICU that night. I had written about his physical features in a previous blog. He looked as if a direct descendant of Goliath; his booming voice matched his imposing physical presence. When he came in, he was furious that his friend was threated by a patient. So, as soon as he came, from the top of his lungs, he shouted at that patient – yes, at 3:15 AM in an ICU, where other patients were sleeping or trying to go back to sleep. He challenged that patient to try the same with him, and he asked the nurses to remove the handcuffs. Once again, the nurses protested, but in vain. The patient was quite and did not say anything – till this intern went back to his sitting area. Immediately the patient jumped out of his bed and started a ruckus that was noisier than before. He started throwing the medical carts and their contents everywhere and threated the nurses with physical harm if they come closer to him.
I wanted to see what the intern would do. For his physical stature, the patient did look like what the Israelite spies told on their return from their sojourn in the Promised Land – like a tiny locust. Moreover, this intern did really have a booming voice. When he shouts, whether you understand what it is about or not, you stay stunned for a moment. So it would have been easier thing for the intern to subdue this patient. So, I thought.
The intern walked swiftly – farther away from the patient and took the desk that was closest to the door and the farthest away from all the beds. He sat behind that desk and from there, he was telling the nurses how they were flanking the patient in the wrong way and how he would jump here to escape from their clutches. And so did the patient. Even in that weak state, I understood that the patient was actually listening to what the intern was telling he would be doing and just following his words. It was hilarious. Suddenly one of the nurses realized that, and she snapped at the intern: “Sir, if you are not helping us, it is okay. At least, do not help him.” So, the Goliath intern remained silent and the nurses apprehended the patient one more time. This time, not only they handcuffed him, they also sedated him. Only after he was sedated, the intern moved away from his safe haven.
It was then I realized that power, authority, physical prowess and everything else does not matter when you do not have courage in your heart. Both the times, it was the fault of the interns, and both times, they tried to escape; not once they tried to take the responsibility of their actions. Not only that, none of them took any steps to help those nurses who were affected directly because of the actions of these interns.
Then I remembered my first reading of the Gospels. I was 10 when I started reading the Gospels. By then, I was reading all kinds of books and magazines on mythology and was in awe of all the gods who were sending fiery darts and watery balls. So, imagine how bored I was when I started the Gospel according to St. Matthew. By the time I came to the end of the Gospel, I was shocked to see that my God was actually being beaten by soldiers and mocked. It made no sense to me. For me, it was an antithesis to what I thought of as courage. And when the priests and the scribes were taunting our Lord and Saviour when He was on the Cross, I was sure He would get out of the Cross, bring down fire on them and do those heroic, courageous things I had read in the mythologies. But, I was left disappointed. Then as I started reading the other three Gospels, I did not know that they were the same accounts of our Lord’s life, so in each Gospel, I was expecting a thunderous ending, with death to all the enemies. But even after the Resurrection, our Lord spent time encouraging His disciples, rather than rooting out His enemies. I was one very disappointed kid after reading the Gospel accounts.
But now I know differently. It is easy to retaliate. That does not necessarily mean courage. Even snakes retaliate, and all the snake lovers have been trying their best to convince me that the repulsive reptiles are attacking me only because they are afraid of me, so I don’t have to actually worry about. While my scientific mind may accept this explanation, my practical mind asks, “But does the snake know that – that it is actually afraid of me?”
True courage is in being still when things go out of our hands. True courage lies in taking responsibility. It needs lots of courage to stay calm when your natural inclination is to defend yourself. And, as I read Isaiah, chapter 53, suddenly I realize the courage of our Lord.
What the Lord suffered was not for His actions. It is for my sin. It is for my trespasses. It is for my iniquity. Yet, He took responsibility as my Kinsman. As my Brother, He took the responsibility for my actions and, yet, He never blamed me for any of those humiliations, sufferings and eventually, the gruesome death He had suffered on the Cross.
I also have heard of righteous anger. When you have not done anything wrong and if you are accused or punished, you are angry and you are justified, they say. And here was Jesus. Being humiliated and insulted. They spat on His face and slapped Him hard. His body was torn by the lashes and was bruised entirely. Yet, He never uttered a word. It takes lots of courage to suffer in silence. It takes lots of courage not to utter a single word in defence when you are innocent. And suddenly that disappointed kid has become very proud of his Hero.
Yes, Jesus Christ is my Hero. And I am very proud of Him. And in His silence and quietness, I see true courage. And I wish that I follow the footsteps of my Hero and to show my courage in the silent suffering that God our Father has allowed me in my life. Amen.