The LORD gives strength to His people; the LORD blesses His people with peace. ~ Psalm 29:11, NIV
“Let’s go take a look at the baby,” I suggested. The first look at their unborn baby, even in grainy black and white, turns even stoic moms to mush. As I studied the tiny image, however, I felt that aching feeling that always rises in my stomach when I have to give bad news. There would be no more congratulations for this couple – for the tiny embryo on the screen had no pulsing blip where the heart beat should have been.
After the initial gregarious exchange, my tone grew serious, as I tried to find the best way to break the news. I could see the thoughts racing in her eyes and her furrowed brow – followed by a wash of tears. “When can we try again?” she asked, as if this sudden denial made it all the more irresistible.
They did try again, returning with a look of cautious optimism, tempered with a measure of innocence lost. But, again, there was disappointment. The second miscarriage led to a work-up with dearth of helpful results. She tried to rationalize. “Maybe I’m not meant to be a mom,” she whispered, knowing her window was closing.
Four months later, I found a note on my desk: “Mrs. S, + home preg 5 wks ago, light bleeding, plz advise.” I asked my nurse to order an hCG level and an ultrasound. This time the findings were even more disappointing than a failed pregnancy. With an hCG of 145,000 and a “snowstorm” pattern on the ultrasound, a hydatidiform mole rather than a normal pregnancy was almost certain. This meant surgery for evacuation of the pregnancy, followed by at least a year of contraception and blood tests to ensure complete cure.
The disappointment was palpable when I related the bad news and discussed the fertility implications of the likely diagnosis. After arranging for surgery, she then said the last thing I expected to hear at that moment. “One more thing, Dr. Balli… I don’t know if you’re a spiritual person, but I wanted you to know that my husband and I have been praying for you.”
I was blown away! Here I was, with three healthy kids, working in a Christian hospital, laying out this devastating news. And in the hour of her trials, she was lifting me up in prayer. Would I have done the same? Was I praying for her? Was I praying for any of my patients?
As I think back on that conversation, I’m struck by how the quiet voice of God comes into our lives – often when we’re not expecting Him. I am reminded again that, despite our successes or failures as physicians, it is only our connection with Christ that can bring true inner peace – both to us and the patients we care for. In each busy, sometimes stressful, often overbooked day, may we never fail to point our patients to the Great Physician, the true Source of healing and the Giver of peace.
– Kevin Charles Balli, LLUSM class of 1998, is assistant professor in LLUSM department of gynecology and obstetrics and is clerkship director for gynecology and obstetrics at LLUSM. He received the LLUMC Physician Whole-Person Care Award in 2007.