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The Coumadin Confessional

Written by Patti Greene

From my lips, to God’s ear. He had His answer ready long before I even asked.

Guest Contributor Ellsworth Johnson

If you were raised Catholic, like I was, chances are you spent some time in a confessional.

When I was in the fifth grade, growing up deep in the boroughs of New York City, my mother put me in a program organized by our local church called “Release Time.” On Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. I, my brother and about 50 other kids from local elementary schools got to leave early, walk the half mile to Sacred Heart and spend the afternoon (and, often, into the evening) in classrooms being lectured by the nuns on various topics, attending services in the sanctuary and, occasionally, indulging in my least favorite part of the whole experience: going to confession.

Oh, how I hated the confessional! Not only did we have to wait in long lines, to visit one of what were essentially small closets built into the wood paneling which lined the sanctuary’s walls, but once there you closed the door behind you and, in the darkened space, had to bare your sins to the priest invisibly on the other side of the porous cloth partition.

I often found myself confused. Embarrassed. Fumbling for things to say to a perfect stranger about the bad stuff no one knew about but God and me (“should I mention THAT one?”).

I had forgotten that agonized feeling from my childhood — until last Tuesday, when it came back full-force.

The apostle Paul reminds us many times to trust that God already has things mapped out for us:

… for we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Currently, I am under medical care at home. Jackie, my nurse (not her real name), comes by once a week to take my vital signs and do a procedure called an INR, where she pricks my finger to draw blood and uses a portable device to test how well and how quickly it clots.

One of the medications I take is called Coumadin®. It is used to control the blood’s clotting ability. I had been prescribed to take one pill a day, but twice a week I had been advised to take an additional half a pill to further inhibit blood clotting.

Well, that was the plan, but… cut a pill in half? How on earth was I supposed to do that? With a knife? Scissors? Chisel? How do you keep the pieces from flying to Kingdom Come when you split the tablet? It sounded like a huge hassle, with the possibility of making a mess and chasing pill fragments all over the room, so I decided to just take an extra whole pill (instead of half) on those days and be done with it.

(DISCLAIMER: Do NOT try this at home, or anywhere else! This was a VERY BAD thing to do, and I thank God that it didn’t result in any medical harm. Always take your medicines exactly as prescribed!)

There were consequences, though.

“Your numbers are way up. They are about as high as they should be. We should look at lowering your dose.”

Oh no! My blood was way thinner than expected. Jackie was considering making medical recommendations under false pretenses, and I was the source of the falsehood!

The numbers from the INR test were at the upper end of the acceptable range, probably because of the additional whole Coumadin® pill I was taking instead of cutting it in half as directed.

Jackie was sitting in the chair across from me in my office, busily entering information into the tablet computer she brought with her to manage all my patient-care data. Should I tell her? She might freak out and get mad. On the other hand, it would explain the result, and allow us to make decisions based on reality and, hopefully, get the expected outcome.

Contemplating Confession

I stared out the window, flipping the issue over and over in my mind, evaluating possible eventual reactions (in increasing order of severity):

#3: Jackie getting mad

#2: any medical consequences

#1: wife clubbing me senseless

I took a deep breath. “Here goes,” I thought to myself.

I told Jackie what I did and braced myself for her response.

She did not even look up from her tablet.

Experiencing Grace

“That’s OK,” she said in an even tone. “I have an extra pill cutter out in my car. You can have it.”


She continued.

“I bought it for another patient some time ago. It turned out he didn’t need it, so I’ve been carrying it around in my car ever since. Here… let me go get it for you.” I watched her as she put down the tablet and left the room.

Can you say “grace”? The way it was all once explained to me involved blatantly speeding and a cop car pulling you over. “Justice” is getting the hefty ticket you rightly deserve. “Mercy” is overlooking the infraction, though you were obviously very guilty. “Grace” is where the cop says, on top of letting you slide, “Oh, and here are ten courtside passes to the next Lakers home game for you and your friends.”

My mouth hung wide open. Jackie’s calm and grace-filled reaction was TOTALLY unexpected! I was completely flabbergasted at the astronomical coincidence which had just taken place.

Rationalizing God’s Provision

My rational mindset about putting together the sequence of events which must have taken place in the non-specific past to bring this all about:

  • One of Jackie’s patients needed a pill cutter.
  • Jackie bought the pill cutter.
  • The patient ended up not needing it.
  • Jackie left it in her car until now.

Just as important are all the things that did NOT happen, each of which is entirely plausible:

  • Jackie could have, at some point, for any reason (or no reason) taken the pill cutter out of her car.
  • Another patient could have needed it.
  • Jackie could have forgotten it was there or remembered yet not mention it.

This is hardly a complete list, but only the more obvious things. “Less obvious” is that the car could have been in an accident and been unavailable, or even a different nurse than Jackie showed up at my house that day.

Or… I could have chickened out and not said anything.

Appreciating God’s Care

 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Yet again, I am amazed in my humanness that God had it all under control, and that all the pieces fell together as He had obviously planned. And, yet again, I remind myself that I shouldn’t be surprised, considering who God is and where He sits in the scheme of things.

He has the whole universe under His dominion, yet He saw fit to make sure that I, Person #3,975,467,002 on this one obscure rock out of a trillion planets, with nothing special about him and much worthy of condemnation, still got what I needed.

Not only did I end up getting it, but He also arranged events (and non-events!) in other people’s lives to bring it all about.

I should indeed not be surprised. That’s who He is.

And I praise His name forever.

Thanks for the pill cutter.


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About the author


Patti Greene

Patti Greene is the author of three outstanding devotional prayer journals, Answer Me, Anchor Me, and Awaken Me and a book titled "Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending." Patti earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and pursued graduate studies in religious education and library science spending two years as a second-grade teacher. After spending 12 years as a stay-at-home mom, Greene spent 18 more years as a school librarian in St. Louis, Missouri and Houston, Texas. When not writing books or blogs, Greene spends her time caregiving, reading, researching, and hanging out with her family and friends. Patti and her husband have three adult children and five grandchildren. Visit her blog at GreenePastures.org.

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