I first heard this term when I was in high school. It is one of the body’s defense mechanisms when one senses danger, experiences stress or is fearful. The release of adrenaline creates a flight or fight response in which there are physical changes in the body. Heart rate and blood pressure tend to rise. One may feel stronger and be less likely to feel pain.
Sometimes we may seek to experience the rush. For nearly 20 years, I visited 9 major Amusement Parks to ride every rollercoaster. Universal Studios, Disney World, Sea World, Cedar Point, Six Flags and even King’s Island were among them. And each time I stood in line, waiting for my turn on the loops, twists and turns, I felt that adrenaline rush. The feeling usually faded away after the slow ascent up the first hill ended with the pause before the first deep plunge.
I had some control over which rollercoasters I chose to ride. At any point, I could step out of the line if I was too afraid to be seated, strapped in and go up that first hill. However, during my Clinical Pastoral Experience year, my experience with adrenaline rush was totally different. Whenever I made my rounds, visiting patients in the pre-surgery area or their hospital rooms, I was fine. Unfortunately, that was never the case when I was paged to go to the Emergency Room.
I knew that something dire was probably unfolding there. I was being called to sit with a family of someone was seriously injured, involved in a car accident, or worse. My blood pressure would go through the roof, my heart rate would definitely increase, and sometimes, as I entered the ER, I had to take a moment to control my breathing. I know that I was only there to be present with others who were feeling the same thing I was because someone they loved was in pain. My role was to be the calm, supportive presence in the midst of the storm they were experiencing.
These are some of the things I noticed while I journeyed with others. Time was different. Sometimes it sped up, but usually the minutes and hours crept by. I became an advocate for others, making sure they took care of themselves. I made sure family members had a little sustenance, whether it was something to drink or a light meal, I was the one who called the kitchen for them. I was the one who located a quiet room for them to wait in, if they couldn’t stay with the patient. I went and found all the tissues I could. I prayed with families, sang with families and even cried with families. I kept a vigil with those who had to make difficult and impossible decisions. Often, I would go to the hospital’s chapel after I ministered to others, to pray and seek comfort from our Lord.
I believe we have entered a new kind of adrenaline rush. It’s not like any rollercoaster ride any of us have experienced. It isn’t even what we do to prepare for the call that brings us to an Emergency Room. It’s as if we’re paused at the top of that first hill. We may be able to see what is before us, but we’re unable to move forward…yet.
Breathe. Just breathe, deeply.
Find the quiet center in your soul. You will discover that the Lord is already there with us, creating a space of peace, comfort and support. And Amen.