As An ICU Doctor, I See Death Every Day. It Didn’t Prepare Me To Face It Myself

I Was As Terrified As Anyone Else Would Be

I recently had a major health scare (while at work in the ICU, in fact). I walked out of the ICU to get checked out, and three hours later, I was being wheeled into the very same ICU as a patient myself. Thank God, everything is OK, and I am feeling better and on the road to recovery.

Two days before, I was in the same room tending to a patient who had suffered cardiac arrest. Two days later, I was in that very same room as a patient.

I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t want to close my eyes. I didn’t want them to give me sedation, because I was afraid that — when I woke up — I would be on a ventilator; or had surgery; or have some other horrible complication.

In fact, I was saying to myself, “Well, I am not seeing any Angels. So, maybe I’m not going to die today.

Thank God, none of my worst fears came to fruition. The experience, however, made me realize how utterly unprepared I am for my own death and mortality.

Yes, I was not expecting this health scare. Yes, few people are prepared to die. At the same time, I thought that, given that I am a doctor in the ICU — where we see death almost on a daily basis — I was not going to be that scared if and when I come to face my own death.

How wrong I was.

This surprise is further compounded by the fact that I am trying to live a life of religious righteousness. I know that I am going to die one day. While I don’t obsess about death, I still know that I am accountable for what I do here because I have a life over there. And the only way to get over there is to die over here.

So why was I so terrified?

Someone told me, “The human being is weak.” So true. And that still doesn’t answer the question of why I was so scared in the hospital when I got sick. I guess it’s easy to talk a good game, but when it’s you, the story is completely different; even if I am an ICU doctor that deals with death all the time.

Someone else told me that it was the fear of loss of control. That’s true, too. As an ICU doctor, where I have 100% control over what happens to my patients, and as a Type A personality, which most ICU doctors have, I’m not used to losing control. And that loss of control was absolutely mortifying. I guess that’s why I didn’t want sedation. I didn’t want to lose control.

Yet, again, as someone who tries to live a life of service to the Lord, I should know better. I know that, while I have control over many aspects of my life, the Lord our God has ultimate control over everything. I should have trusted that God had my back in that patient room. I didn’t, and I’m sorry for that.

I pray the Lord doesn’t judge me too harshly for the fear I had that day. I pray the Lord keeps me in good health perpetually. I pray for the good health of everyone, as being sick is very difficult indeed.

And, I pray that I can live a life worthy of praise from God so that, when my time does come, I can be at peace with dignity and comfort, ready to come back to my Creator. Amen, O Beloved Lord, Amen.