He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require you but to do justice, to love kindness 

The practice of medicine can be grueling. It is my passion and what I feel I was called to do, but at times it is no more than a demanding “job” that takes me away from my other roles as wife, mother, friend. Sometimes it can feel all-consuming. In those moments, I sometimes forget that medicine is my “calling”.

One busy weekend on call, I finally had a chance to go home and do some things around the house. It felt as if I had just arrived home when I was called back to the emergency department (ED). There was a “walk-in” patient who was hemorrhaging postpartum, and needed my help, which was fine. What annoyed me was that she had already been seen in an ED and released, and she had been seen in the office by her OB and was sent home. I was feeling frustrated and dumped on as I drove back in. I was not thinking about what an honor it is to serve God!

Upon my arrival, the patient was bleeding briskly, was hypotensive, and was already being transfused. But I was not afraid for her. I was confident that a curettage would slow her bleeding, and that we could stabilize her and be able to send her home. Then, I could go home, too.

As soon as I saw her face, however, I saw sheer terror-she clearly did not share my optimism! I tried reassuring her. She went on to tell me a story that changed my heart that day and taught me a lesson I will not soon forget.

Nine months earlier, she was so distraught to find herself pregnant that she purposely got into a car accident, hoping she would lose the baby. Over time, she began to feel better about having a baby but carried tremendous guilt about the accident.

When she began having bleeding problems after the birth of her daughter, she knew God was punishing her. She loved her daughter immediately but knew God would not let her live to rear the baby. She was certain she was going to die in the operating room.

In the time we had together before moving to the OR, I shared with her the truth about our loving God of forgiveness. I explained that God loves her and had no plans to harm her. We prayed and I saw her fear diminish. The curettage worked well. she received a few units of blood and went home.

I went home too, reminded of the honor I have to represent the Creator of the universe. I prayed for forgiveness for the attitude I had while driving back to the hospital that day.

I never saw that patient again. But months later, I received a letter from the patient’s mother. She thanked me for taking care of her daughter that day and wanted me to know her daughter had not been the same since. She said her daughter had made a commitment to God and was happier than she had been in years.

I kept that letter. It reminds me that my work is my calling, and not just my job.

Tammy Hayton, LLUSM class of 1991, is and obstetrician and gynecologist who has been practicing in the Temecula/Murrieta area of Southern California.