Anita created the artwork above. The wall they adorn is seen daily by staff and volunteers MercyMed.
Anita went to work with me one weekend. Mom said she needed a little “daddy time”. Anita was having a hard time finding her space in the family being a six-year-old girl, second born of four girls. So off we went to the hospital to see my patients. Our first patient was Mr. Carl, a 51-year-old who was diagnosed with a bad liver because of hepatitis C and would probably die within the next few months. He had been in prison up until 8 months before. At that time, he had moved in with his old girlfriend who had kicked him out when she realized they could not both live off her social security. He then moved in with his brother. And now he was spending all day in the hospital, alone, dying from his disease.
And in walks Anita. She was a little shy at first. Simple sentences, “I’m Anita.” “I am 6 years old” “I am in the first grade.” But soon it became much deeper. “Are you going trick or treating tonight?” He responded, “No, Anita, I have to stay in the hospital.” “Well, I’ll bring you some candy tomorrow.” I prayed for Mr. Carl and when I said “Amen”, his eyes were watering and mine began too as I saw him realize everything he is missing out on dying alone at the age of 51.
The next morning Anita was up and ready. She had her 2 pieces of candy in her hand and then went to her room and took a dime out of her piggy bank. As we drove back to the hospital Anita asked me if Mr. Carl knew Jesus. After a long sad pause, I said, “I do not know Anita.” “Well I think you ought to ask him, Daddy.” I tried a quick move here I learned in father school, “Why don’t you ask him, Anita?” “Daddy, you know him best, you ask him.” We continued driving to the hospital and I became nervous thinking about my future conversation. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up. I didn’t want to sound foolish. “Daddy, are you going to ask him?” “Yes, of course.” We came up to his door and washed our hands. I pulled up Anita’s sleeves and once again she said “Daddy, are you going to ask him?”
As we went in, Anita walked straight to him and presented him with her little treasure gifts, 2 pieces of candy – and then she almost cried as she realized she lost her dime. Mr. Carl told her that was okay and that he was very grateful for his candy. Anita turned to me, “Daddy, ask him.” – “I will, I will, shhh, just wait a minute.” I went on to explain to him what was going on with his liver, his prognosis, the treatment plan, and procedures being performed – all the while, Anita kept interrupting, “Daddy, ask him.” I felt the need to get through the important stuff – his liver – before talking about Jesus. But somehow Anita knew what was really important, “Daddy, ask him,” for about the sixth time. “OK, Anita.” I turned to face Mr. Carl with butterflies in my stomach and the proudest 6 year old on my lap that you had ever seen. “Mr. Carl, Anita and I are Christians and she asked me today if I knew if you were a Christian and I did not know. Mr. Carl, do you know Jesus?” He turned to Anita, “Yes Anita, I know Jesus and thanks for asking.”
We stood to pray and this time Anita started first. As we were leaving, Anita turned around again and said, “Mr. Carl, I play the violin, can I play for you someday?” “Anita, that would be wonderful.” As we walked out, Anita was already thinking about when she could play for her new friend. We left the hospital and went directly to church. In church, she had been writing prayer requests on the prayer request cards. Normally it was something like “help me be good in school,” but today it was quite different. “There is somebody in hospital. He is very sick. His name is Mr. Carl. Please pray for him.”
After church, we went home and Anita and her older sister, Jane, picked up their violins and we headed for the hospital. It was the most beautiful music you have ever heard bouncing off the hospital walls. They played every song they knew. Mr. Carl clapped and thanked them for every song. They bowed at the conclusion of their concert and as we walked out, Mr. Carl whispered, “Thank you for bringing your daughters.”
Anita taught me a lot about medicine in just two days. Healing is so much more than just making the right diagnosis and giving a pill. It is worth my inconvenience, two trips to the hospital the same day, to bring joy to someone in need. It is really worth caring for the entire person. Being a doctor is a calling and means of giving away some of the good God has given you, even if it is 2 pieces of candy. And yes, Jesus is more important than the liver. Mommy thought Anita needed a little “Daddy time”, but I think God thought Daddy needed a little “Anita time.”