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Saving Peter
by Alayne Rabow

It was difficult. Peter was hallucinating, not interacting; writing on our hands when he wanted to say something and watching him intubated was difficult for all of us. Finally, they decided to remove the tube and try him on an oxygen mask, as he wasn’t improving in his current state. In fact both the children and I thought he was deteriorating. The nurses weren’t holding out much hope. The doctors weren’t saying anything. We started to call the children who were across the country and suggest that they come. Days had gone by in the intensive care unit. He had flat-lined there as well as in surgery and the faces of the surrounding care givers didn’t give us a lot of hope. We were concentrating constantly...probably the way this part of the family prays. We were determined he would get through this and all of us worked on it, staying in the hospital twenty four hours a day, and rotating nights when we would sit with him in the intensive care room. It took the strength of two to keep him from tearing his tube out. The hospital was cooperating with this breach of the rules, which made it easier for us, but also was frightening. Why were they being so nice?

Out came the tube and on came the mask. His oxygen level was too low. They kept raising the percentage on O2 he was being given. It didn’t help. I was getting scared. I knew what too pure an oxygen intake did to newborn babies. I wasn’t sure that it wouldn’t have the same impact on him. The resident that came in said if his condition didn’t improve very soon they would have to reintubate him. It was 8:30 in the morning, and I was afraid that if the tube went back in, it meant forever. They had it almost as pure oxygen ten minutes later when a group of interns and residents followed their doctor around going into rooms. It was rounds but not for us. This doc wasn’t one of Peters so I couldn’t ask him anything. He wasn’t informed about the case.

Suddenly one of the followers broke off from the group and ran into Peter’s room. She pressed the bell and shouted, “Get a nurse in here. Get the respiratory therapist. Get that mask off him. Put a canula in his nose, reduce the oxygen being pumped in and make his body work. He will never get well like this. DO IT NOW!” Everyone was shocked. She was not one of his doctors, had nothing to do with his case or any of us. Suddenly she was giving orders forcefully that countermanded his own residents and interns. She left no space for questions. They all followed her orders with our encouragement. This couldn’t hurt any more that his condition was already potentially damaging him. Within 20 minutes he was lucid, his oxygen levels were normal and we knew he had made it. His thought processes were clear and he was capable of leaving intensive care and moving to a hospital room. The wonderful woman was nowhere to be found, although we all knew she was real. She had a name and the nurses knew her. I believe she saved his life, and knowing hospital protocol, I admired her courage but didn’t understand how she knew what was going on it that room.

Several hours later a visitor arrived. She was part of a Wednesday morning group that we both enjoyed. It was held at Temple Ohavi Zedek from 7:30 to 8:30 AM and was a non-sectarian discussion group. In passing she told me that several of the members of the group didn’t feel like they were doing enough for Peter so at 8:45 that morning they got together, held hands and focused on getting Peter well. The meditation was very intense and lasted about fifteen minutes. I believe it was just long enough to save him. Now I knew what called that young women to Peter’s room and had her check on him. This collective thought process changed the course of his life and death.

It is now five years later. Peter has a badly damaged heart but you wouldn’t know it. He is fine, healthy, plays golf, works, and lives a normal active life. He has had the opportunity of meeting and influencing five baby grandchildren who were born since that day and love him. He has made an impact upon clients, friends and family. We have all been very fortunate.

What do I believe? The intensity of the family’s thoughts was insufficient. The added power of the caring group of thinkers across town joined us and made things happen. Do I believe in hocus-pocus? Not without an explanation. This was a natural event, not a magic one.

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