I feel compelled to paraphrase one of his patient's stories. Dr. Hamilton is a renowned former neurosurgeon who details an experience he had during a Shriner's hospital burn unit rotation during his residency.
His name was Thomas, a boy of ten who was severely burned after grasping a high-voltage power line while trying to keep from falling off a tower. He burst in to flames, fell 100ft to the ground, and was not extinguished until firefighters noticed the rising smoke and came to his rescue. His life flickered.
He rejected cadaver grafts one after another. The hope is that the cadaver grafts will buy enough time that the remaining pieces of the patient's own skin can be gradually harvested to resurface his body. But Thomas's body had an unusually potent proclivity for rejecting these grafts. Resurfacing his whole body took six to eight hours--each of the four times he rejected the cadaveric grafts, the last time within only 48 hours.
Thomas wasn't likely to survive. They simply could not harvest enough native grafts from his remaining skin--armpits, scrotum and perineum. It would have required months to go back and forth, lifting a graft from each small, unburned region and then suturing it into place. Then they would have to wait three or four weeks for new skin to grow back into the original harvest site to do it again.
The doctors were ready to give up on Thomas. But fate intervened. Thomas's father, only forty-two years old, collapsed from a heart attack and died.
There was no way to tell Thomas, as he had been in a coma since the accident. It seemed just too much tragedy to bear. But Thomas's mother suggested that they harvest skin grafts from her husband's body. There was one last chance. Hope prevailed.
So in a final effort, the surgical team peeled away the skin of his father, like bark off a young tree. Over the next 8 hours, the surgeons quilted his father's skin onto him. Exhausted, Dr. Hamilton fell asleep immediately after the surgery.
The doctor was abruptly awakened by a nurse stammering. "It's Thomas . . . he's . . . he's trying . . . to talk!"
After struggling to remove the tube in his trachea, Thomas spoke the first words since his accident, "What happened to my father?" How could he have known? He'd been unconscious the whole time! He then said, "My dad's just standing there at the end of my bed. Why doesn't he say something?"
"Thomas," the doctor asked, choking back tears in disbelief, "where do you see your father?"
"He's standing right there," he answered, staring at the empty foot of the bed. "Hi, Dad!" he called out, and feebly attempted to wave. One of the nurses choked back a sob.
"Thomas, your dad's passed away," the doctor admitted. "He died three days ago."
Then Thomas whispered, "That must be his ghost then that's waving back at me."
Thomas got better. He didn't reject his father's grafts.
I cannot help but read this story and draw the parallel between this father's skin being used to cover, protect, and restore his boy's life and the Savior's sacrifice. His infinite atonement restores our life. He covers and heals our wounds, our pains and our sins. He saves us. And after saving our very lives, and opening the door to eternal life, He comes to us to comfort us. In our darkest hours, He stands at our bedside and sends His angels to attend to us and bear us up.
As I write this, my little nephew Jace, a mere eight years old, lies in a hospital bed in the University of Utah Burn Unit. Just a week after burying his grandpa, Mr. Carlsons's dad, he caught himself on fire while playing with a lighter.
He is now covered with burns on 26% of his body--chest, back and arms. But the blessings are always abundant. His precious face, hands, and most of his joints were spared. He is brave. He told the nurses that he prayed four times on the flight to the hospital. There is evidence of God's love all around him and his family.
May we all not reject our Father's grafts.