Another weekend in the emergency department, and another weekend of looking into the hearts and minds of mankind. Sadly, we don’t usually remember the good, the kind, the truly sick and genuinely grateful. It’s a common human failing. All the good, the enormity of it, falls past us and we see only the tiny annoyances that nibble at our souls, and make us generalize to the rest of humanity in terribly inaccurate ways.
I saw plenty of gracious, kind individuals. I saw lots of truly sick ones; pneumonias, dehydrated dementia patients, sorrowful family members. I’m thankful to have met all of them.
Of course, I also saw some that gave me real food for thought. And that’s why you read my blog, for thoughts. For instance, there was the man with a suspected STD, who felt that oral sex wasn’t really sex, and was trying to decide whether to inform his girlfriend that he had been fooling around. He gave me a little insight into his sexual history, in which he made infidelity seem the social equivalent of failing to send a thank-you card, and unprotected sex seem like the medical equivalent of failing to take vitamins. What a tragedy, that we have arrived at this place where the act of ultimate human intimacy is nothing but the vehicle for dishonesty and the vector for disease. Call me a crazy Christian with repressed sexual mores, if you like. But God’s rules for sexuality would sure save a lot of pain if they were widely felt to be relevant instead of inconvenient.
Moving on…I saw a man in middle age who was homeless and jobless. His family wanted us to arrange for him to have Medicaid as well as rehab for his cocaine habit. Now, he recently had a job, and he recently had a home, but his cocaine took precedence. Then, it became society’s responsibility to fix it for him, at least in his family’s eyes. Admittedly, those were tired eyes his family had. They seemed frustrated with a long struggle. I sympathize. I’d do anything to help my child in that situation. But it’s hard to help those whose lifestyles and choices have wrecked them. Call me crazy, and I know it’s judgmental, but maybe if you stopped buying cocaine, you could have a house and a job!
Then, of course, there’s always the insight of mortality. Leaving my shift yesterday, I walked past a family grieving the unexpected death of an elderly loved one. There they were, gathered in the conference room, making phone calls, comforting one another. I was in my jacket, a drink in my hand (tea, mind you), my backpack over my shoulder. I was headed home to a beautiful, healthy wife and to the hugs and kisses of my beautiful, healthy children. My world diametrically opposite to the one I was passing. The contrast so large, it was like alternate universes passing one another. I hate that. I hate their loss, and the reminder that I’ll walk down death’s path one day, along with everyone I love. So, I let it slip away. I didn’t dwell on that stark prophecy. I went home to my reality, to my children and wife, to my warm log house on the hilltop under the bright moon. I pray that they find comfort. I pray that we all do.
So, that was heavy. Now on to practical matters. My partner, Dr. Greg Cromer, had a great thought. You know the insurance papers we get? ‘We can’t pay this bill until we get further information. Blah, blah, blah.’ Well, what if we start doing that for every bill we get. ‘I can’t pay my mortgage this month until I receive further information on your handling of my mortgage.’ ‘I can’t pay for my car repairs until I consult another source on the adequacy or necessity of those repairs. Thank you for your patience.’ ‘I can’t pay my child’s tuition until I have checked on your current credentials and on my child’s progress. I appreciate your cooperation.’ What a great idea! But wait! We can’t do that, can we? We’ll have our house foreclosed, our car repossessed and our child expelled. So why is it OK for physicians to receive that treatment? Go Greg. Great idea!
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! And I hope your Christmas is wonderful! I’ll be posting some Christmas insights in the next few weeks. It’s probably my favorite time of year, so I have a few things to say about it.
Keep the faith!