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Kay Kerosene

by Ashley C. McGee, MD
Today's Christian Doctor - Winter 2010

I entered medicine to be the hands and feet of Christ to my patients. After residency and a stint overseas I have been working in a primary outpatient setting for about two years. It did not take long for me to get caught up in the games of the office setting. I found myself referring to patients by little “nicknames” or saying, “They’re just crazy” or “There goes my day” when I see certain names on the schedule.

I would occasionally feel convicted by this, but in a moment of stress I would find myself doing it again, obviously not having truly repenting of what I had done. Certainly, no one in my office stopped me from the behavior, and if anything they fanned the flames of my sin.

There is one particular patient whom I will refer to as “Kay.” Kay is notorious for reeking of kerosene. Obviously it is the only source of heat she has in her home. She lives alone and is very noncompliant. She has some mild mental deficits. On one visit I put her in a hall by herself so I could keep the door open and not get a headache from her odor. One day she came in and was following her same routine. She would tell me nothing was wrong and she was only “Here by His grace.” She was sitting in the room covered in Vaseline and flipping through her tattered Gideon Bible.

After seeing her that particular day I walked out to the nurses’ desk as I usually do to fill out paperwork before dismissing the patient. I do not recall what comments I made about her to my staff, if any, that day. However, I will never forget what happened when I walked back into the room. Out of the blue, Kay said something like this, “I know what they are saying about me. You know, they said stuff about Jesus, too. When those soldiers had Him on the cross they made fun of Him, too.”

I do not know what she meant by what she was saying, but I know what I heard. The Holy Spirit used her to speak straight to my heart. What was I doing? I immediately went back to my office nearly in tears and immediately asked for forgiveness from the Lord. How dare I treat my patients the way I have been treating them! Every patient who comes in is loved by God just as much as He loves me. How can I let off-the-cuff comments come out of one side of my mouth and then expect encouraging words, sharing the love of Christ, to come out of the other? Scripture tells us that this is not possible.

I told my nurse, who is also a strong believer, of my revelation. She said she understood how I felt and that she would help to hold me accountable if I would hold her accountable, as well.

In the weeks since this incident my practice has changed. I have learned that every patient who walks into an exam room has a need and God has placed me there to help meet that need. I have also learned that I am to give time to and love each patient as Christ would. Certainly, I fail at times, but overall it makes a much smoother day. Instead of saying, “What does that crazy man want today?” I have found it much more pleasing to say, “What can I share about you, Lord, today?” or even possibly, “What can this person share about You with me?”


Ashley C. McGee, MD, lives in Greenwood, SC, with his wife, Sarah, and three children. He has been practicing Family Medicine in Ware Shoals, SC, for the last two years. He has done medical missions in several different countries, most recently through Volunteers in Medical Missions. Dr. McGee and his family spent about six months at Tenwek Hospital with World Medical Mission after completing residency.