Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire, Levi, Josie and baby Jane

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blood: Post-Easter Reflections

As an orthopedic surgeon, I am often chided by fellow colleagues from other “more refined” surgical specialties that I am a mere “blue collar surgeon,” with marginal intellect, who uses barbaric tools such hammers, nails and screws, to fix broken bones through large, bloody incisions.  More than once I have heard the quip about orthopedic surgeons being “strong as an ox and twice as smart” and I try to take it in stride, replying with my standard rebuttal about being glad that at least I don’t have to operate on the colon or some other "less-glamorous" body part.   I love the banter, and surmise the reason it exists is to help us lessen the stress in our high-stakes profession as missionary-surgeons at a busy mission hospital in rural Kenya.

 While I understand that most of what is said about orthopedic surgeons is solely in jest, it is true that our surgeries are significantly bloodier than the average general surgery case (such as a thyroidectomy where blood loss can be measured in a few cc’s).  It is not uncommon for a hip fracture case to have 500cc or more in blood loss.  Once, during cleanup of the operating room after a particularly extensive and bloody orthopedic case, a suction container filled with about a liter of blood slipped out of the hand of one of our team members, and hit the floor, spraying the wall and ceiling and covering our poor anesthetist in blood.  And more than once, I have finished a case only to find that blood has soaked through my surgical gown to stain my scrubs underneath, or that blood dripping from the operating room table has completely soaked the hems of my scrub pants (especially if I forget to wear my rubber boots).  And I wonder why Kenyans are staring at me, wide-eyed, as I walk obliviously through the courtyard of the hospital wearing bloody scrubs or why my wife refuses to give me a hug at the end of the day until I have taken a cleansing shower. 

For the average person, the sight (or even the thought – sorry!) of blood can be sickening. But for those daily exposed to the sight, smell and feel of blood, the visceral reaction blood evokes can be lessened, until it becomes quite mundane and unremarkable.  Perhaps, like the desensitized surgeon, we as Christians have also lost our appreciation of the significance of blood.   We forget that our forgiveness was bought not with our “good deeds” but with the literal flow of blood from the hands and feet of God Himself (Hebrews 9:22: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”).  And we forget that the price of our freedom from sin was literally paid with the currency of blood (Revelation 1:5: Jesus “freed us from our sin, by his blood”).   During this post-Easter season, let us encourage one another to ponder the incredible sacrifice that Christ paid for us on the cross, and pray that God re-sensitizes our hearts to the wonder of Christ’s blood that has set us free.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
Amazing Love, now flowing down
From hands and feet that were nailed to a tree
As Grace flows down and covers me”