When the phone rings at 3:50AM, it can’t be good news. When the call comes from ER, you put on your pastoral hat and head for the hospital.
The phone rang at 3:50AM. It jarred me awake, and I answered groggily.
“Is this Mark Wheeler?” the voice asked.
“Yes, it is,” I responded.
“This is April. Marky was in a serious accident. He’s been asking for you. I’ve been trying to find your phone number for two hours. I’m sorry to call so early.”
“That’s all right. I’m glad you called. Who did you say was hurt?”
“Marky was in an accident. His back is broken. He’s been asking for you. We’re at __________.”
“I will be there as soon as I can. Tell me again who was in the accident.”
“OK. I’m on my way.”
After that cryptic exchange jolted my adrenaline, I jumped in the shower, quickly got dressed, hopped in the car, and headed for __________. On the way there, I remembered another such phone call at 2AM that resulted in a trip to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where the daughter of one of our church members had been killed in an automobile accident. On the way to the hospital, I prayed for grace and the wisdom to know how to minister to the family.
After parking and finding my way to ER, I tried to explain to the attending nurse who I was looking for. Not knowing the family name, I explained the details of the accident and injuries. The nurse said he knew who I was talking about and asked my relationship. I explained that I was their pastor. He summoned another nurse who led me back to the ER room where the family was.
The nurse pulled back the curtain of the exam room. I stared at two women who I did not recognize and they stared back at me. They told the nurse they had not called me.
Outside the room, I spoke to a different nurse at the nurses’ station. I explained the situation and asked the patient’s name.
The nurse went into the room to talk with the women. Afterwards, she came back and explained what happened. “Marky” Wheeler had been in an accident. April called his father, Mark Wheeler, to let him know. Instead of reaching him, she got my number. Right name, wrong number.
There is an April in my church, and I assumed she was the one calling me. She asked for me by name. The fact I didn’t recognize the name, “Marky,” and had to ask three times who was injured, well, I just chalked it up to being groggy.
Back home by 4:30AM, I made a pot of coffee, prayed for the family, and had a good laugh with my wife about a case of mistaken identity.
It’s going to be a long day. SIGH.