The heart monitor indicated a normal heart rhythm, but my patient didn’t have a pulse.
I was a nurse working the night shift in a cardiac unit. While catching up on some charting, a loud solitary snore coming from an elderly woman’s room across the hall startled me. My stomach sank when I found her unresponsive and pulseless. Seeing a perfect heart rhythm dancing across the monitor above her bed, however, confused me.
EA—pulseless electrical activity—explained the contradiction in front of me. The electrical component of my patient’s heart functioned, but the mechanical component didn’t. A lack of oxygen to the cardiac tissue—likely caused by a blockage in a coronary artery—left her heart’s electrical cells firing and communicating properly along the electrical pathways of her heart. But the corresponding muscle cells, deprived of oxygen, couldn’t respond with a contraction.
I faced a harsh reality: looks can deceive. Despite my best efforts, my sweet patient didn’t survive. Since this was the first time I had lost someone under my care, her death was difficult.
Considering that things aren’t always as they seem, the smiling person we encounter may actually be crying inside. Although progress has been made, mental illness still stigmatizes our society. We all know hurting people who live behind joyful-looking masks.
As Christians, I pray we start digging deeper and getting more accurate pictures of people and their needs. Perhaps a check-up on a widowed relative. Or a compliment to or conversation with a stranger while waiting in line. Maybe we could leave a tract with a small season-themed gift for our waitress.
By following the advice of Peter—to extend sympathy and love to others—we can make a major impact in this hurting world. We who know the Prince of Peace can be beacons of His light and instruments that draw others to the Counselor and Great Physician who revives lives and gives life eternal.
What is your heartbeat leading you to do for others?
(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)
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