The High Calling in the Surgical Suite

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By David Williamson

Entering the surgical suite for the installation of a pacemaker, I thought of – and was grateful for! – the “high calling,” the skill, specialized training and professional recognition of both the surgical team and the hospital. The first person I thought of was the cardiac electrophysiologist, the person to install my pacemaker, in a nationally acclaimed hospital, in partnership with a university medical department that is itself nationally recognized. The cardiac electrophysiologist’s work had seemed rather brief and routine to me when others were the recipients. Suddenly it seemed very unique and special when I was on the table!

I glanced around the surgical suite and noticed the anesthesiologist and the surgical nurses. I thought of Earl Bakken, an electrical engineer who first designed the implanted pacemaker and co-founded Medtronic, a leading manufacturer of pacemakers (though not mine). There were others in the room; I don’t know what each of them contributed, what their specialties or responsibilities were. Yet I as very glad to be in the hands of highly trained, skilled professionals, and very grateful for their high calling.

Looking around at my surgical, high-tech surroundings, I thought also of the cleaning staff who made the conditions for my surgery as clean and hygienic as possible – a safe, healthy setting for my surgery. They were not visible in the room, yet the skill and effectiveness of their work was. Probably it is not often seen or noticed.

The same goes for every object in the room. I thought of the people who designed the high-intensity lamp aiding the sight of the surgeon. I even thought of the “lovely” hospital “robe.” Many others contributed to making this hospital function at the highest level of professionalism: architects and builders added their professional skills to build the state-of-the-art facility for precise surgical tasks.

Where, when and how did God enter this scene?

Later, in my room, after a visit by the Boston Scientific salesperson exclaiming the wonders of their pacemaker – which made sure my heart function as needed – I was visited by two of the hospital’s chaplains. One was Roman Catholic, one Protestant. They prayed for and with me.

Was it their visit that brought God on to the scene? Was it their trained, gracious conversation, highlighted by prayer, that made this incident specifically spiritual?

Were they the ones who were fulfilling a high calling? Was their calling higher?

I believe God was very active and present in each person in that surgical suite and hospital room. Each one was exercising the high calling of their daily work.

This reminded me of something that Anglican theologian Alan Richardson wrote years ago, as he reflected on the elements brought to communion. The bread is a product of human work: wheat is planted, cultivated, harvested and shipped; then baked into bread and shipped again; then marketed; and finally blessed at the table, becoming for us the body of Christ.

Richardson asked: Whose work in this process was God’s work?

When did God enter the process?

Each person in the process was doing God’s work. There is a deep connection between work and worship. So too, in each person in my journey to receive a pacemaker, God was at work.

I am blessed, and give God praise and thanks for the gift of each person’s work.

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