I started working at data entry at a law firm near the Pike Place Market. It's incredibly boring, entering in letters and numbers all day. The best perk to the job is sharing a corner office with some others doing the same work. This office has an incredible view- of the entire Elliot Bay of Puget Sound, from the shipping cranes up to Discovery Park. I watch the ferries and ships come in all day, and the fog roll in through the bay. Today it was eerie, with everything obscured as darkness approached. Other days it is crystal clear and the Olympics across the Sound jump out at me, as if they are right next to Seattle.
But there was a bit more excitement today, in the midst of the data entry. As I entered in yet another name and social security number, the woman who sits next to me let out a shriek. It was the kind that curdles the blood, that a woman makes only when a close loved one has died, just after she has heard the news.
I looked over at her screen, thinking she had just received an email, but there was only her work in front of her. Then I noticed her face was rigid, and she was jerkily collapsing towards her keyboard. I jumped up and put my arms around her to support her, telling coworkers that I thought she was having a stroke. I helped her to the floor as I told someone to call 911, and another person came over to help her. At this point she was jerking around substantially, and it became obvious that it was not a stroke, but a seizure.
She was alternating between extreme flailing about and calmer shaking, but seemingly completely unaware of her surroundings. Her eyes were fluttering, and her body betraying her authority over it. I supported her head in my hands and asked for a wooden tongue depressor to put between her teeth, but no one could find one. Someone offered a piece of cardboard folded over many times, but that didn't seem safe. I began to pray under my breath, that Jesus would bring healing to her, and calm her. I kept on letting her know that she didn't need to worry, that everything would be okay.
I was unsure though, of how to pray. What do you do, in this situation, in the middle of an American secular workplace, with someone who probably doesn't acknowledge God, or Jesus as Lord? I must confess a good deal of trepidation. I know I have the authority to pray for healing, and that healing works; that oft times when I pray for people in Jesus' name, they are healed, and demons are exorcised. But I've always done that in private, or on the street, and asking the person's permission first. Not in a place where religion is semi-officially banned, like an American workplace. So I don't think I prayed with the boldness that was appropriate for the situation, to fully command in Jesus' name to bring an end to the seizure, in part because the setting made it seem inappropriate. Knowing that this wasn't likely life-threatening probably also stymied me from being bolder.
What would Jesus have done? Even as I write this, I'm still not sure. He wouldn't have worried about the setting. But he also would have looked for faith- from the injured, or the one bringing the injured. Not measuring faith, but a desire to depend on him for healing.
In the heat of a moment, there is little time to think of all these things, when we become the sum total of all that went before us in our lives, and act on instinct. I was not only thinking of prayer, but also spending a good deal of my energy and focus making sure she didn't swallow her tongue, that she was comfortable, that she was knowing that people around her were loving her and caring for her, so that even if her body continued to move about, she need not fear. And in addition, in low tones I prayed for her.
The tongue-depressor search was unfruitful, but quickly her teeth clenched together so tightly that her jaw couldn't be opened. Someone else said that was okay. She gradually calmed, and her seizure subsided. She would occasionally reach her arm over to touch me, in a gesture of thanks. Then she insisted then on standing up, to sit in her chair, but she still lacked control over her body, her eyes, or complete mental processes. Twice she forcefully insisted on standing up, and walking over to her chair, and twice we helped her back down to the ground again, for she was not able to hold herself upright. We kept her there, holding her head up for her to rest, until the paramedics arrived.
I'm told they came very quickly, in only five minutes. I was shocked that it had been that long, for it had seemed no longer than a minute, on the outside. The paramedics treated her, checking her vitals, and she became more and more lucid. I let the paramedics know what had transpired, and the couple items of health history we'd gotten from her, in moments of lucidity. When they left she was fine again, and simply embarrassed. Though there was no cause for her to be so, it is an understandably difficult experience to have, not only because of what occurs, but because it is in front of so many strangers. She continued to exhibit a desire to be in control of her surroundings, wanting to stay at work, but finally acquiescing to go home, where she can rest.
It is difficult when our bodies betray us like that. Since we were mewing, puking babes, we have learned to request that our arms raise, a smile be expressed, an eyebrow go up- and it does so. I remember for a long time after I had my stroke, I would constantly feel my face, just to make sure it wasn't happening again. It seemed so wrong, that suddenly my body would no longer obey my wishes, and it left me so unsure that it would not happen again. For this coworker, she had the opposite and same experience, where her body was not obeying, yet doing too much. Even if the experience has happened before, it is extremely disconcerting. And there is always the remembrance that this could happen again, at any time, when we no longer have the God-given power we were born with, even over our own bodies.
But I continue to pray for her. For complete physical healing, and emotional and spiritual healing- that she would know no fear now, but rest, and rest deeply, cradled in the arms of a loving God, who suffered for her, and suffers with her, in every moment of her day.