This is my column in Emergency Medicine News for November.  The link is below, followed by the text file.

Although it’s a little early, and I’m not trying to rush the season, it’s never too early to be thankful.  I forget, too easily, all the blessings showered upon me every day.  So here are a few things for which I am very thankful.,.10.aspx

Pilgrim thankful not to be seasick anymore

Pilgrim thankful not to be seasick anymore

It’s a time of Thanksgiving.  And even though our jobs can be difficult, and our lives hectic, there are many things for which we should be thankful.

And so, I have made a list of some things that fill me with gratitude.  Gifts I have received over the years.  My life is so graced with good and wonder that this is only a fraction of the things I could mention.

I am thankful for the times I give paralyzing drugs and an airway opens before my worried eyes, the vocal cords clear and shiny, free of blood or any other obstruction, and I slide the plastic endotracheal tube in place.  I am thankful that sometimes, terrible accidents leave patients free of harm, dusting off a few bits of glass as they roll into the emergency room.  I am thankful for easy spinal taps, the flash of blood in the central line that lets me know it’s in place, the whoosh of air as I place the chest tube.

I am thankful for those rare times when my patient’s doctor, who knows him, is on call and can answer my questions.  I am thankful for specialists who ask, ‘would you like me to come have a look?’  I am thankful for consultants who don’t yell at me in the middle of the night.  And for those unusual nights when I sleep, or days when I wonder about, almost bored.  I am so grateful for easy diagnoses: for sore throats, bladder infections, Shingles and shoulder dislocations; for anything that doesn’t involved dizziness, weakness, chest pain, numbness or tingling.

I am thankful for my job, and for good collections that allow me to care for my family, pay my taxes and use my resources as I see fit.  I am thankful that family and good teachers allowed me to be a physician.  And that someone taught me how to be calm in all chaos; and also taught me how to pursue answers with tenacity, and when to stop.

I am thankful for modern medicine, for technology, scientists and businessmen who allow me the opportunity to treat and often discharge people I would have pronounced dead in centuries, or even decades, past.  I am thankful for the nurses and paramedics who do things I could never do, and who are always one step ahead of me.

I am grateful for the dirt poor that I care for, who remind me that we are all the same, pauper or king; and for the wisdom that I am, myself, no better than the least and no less than the greatest.  I am thankful for the ones who teach me patience and love by being difficult; who show me that even the craziest and meanest can be truly sick and worthy of my time and interest.

I am thankful when little old ladies look up from their bed-ridden infirmity and say ‘you’re handsome, I’ll take you home!’  I am thankful for big police officers with guns, Tasers and handcuffs who walk into the room with belligerent drunks and say ‘can I help?’

So many things make me thankful:  the first frost, the first snowflake, the lights in my house at night when I crest the hill and know that my wife and children sleep inside.  I’m thankful for their good-night kisses and for bed-time stories; for my warm wife in our warm bed.  I am thankful that they all teach me, everything from mythology to Latin, chemistry to love.  I am thankful for Mountain Laurel in the Spring and the first day the pool is open, with it’s water still arctic.  For the smell of Honeysuckle, the blooms on Blackberries and the way a lazy rattlesnake looks on the dark asphalt.

I am thankful for play, whether Barbies or X-Box, or bike rides in the hills.   I am thankful for creeks to pan gold in, and arrowheads last touched by man in unmeasured years past.  I am grateful for writers like Lewis and Chesterton, Edgar Guest and Larry McMurtry, who inspire me; for the wisdom of St. John and St. Paul from thousands of years gone by.  I am thankful for Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, for Rachmaninoff’s Vespers; pieces that calmed me on long shifts in nocturnal chaos.

I’m thankful for a day off, with rain pouring down, for a pack of dogs on the porch, sleeping and worthless and lovely, for the tales of my ancestors, the love of my parents, for steak and funnel-cake, for the South, for fires on cold nights, for the feel of a rifle in my hands in the deep woods, for errors and successes, for a life lived moving forward, for a job that makes me proud to talk to my children about work.

I am thankful for the perfect word, the perfect sentence, for inspiration, for you who read my columns.

I am thankful for life and death, and everything that lies between them.

Happy Thanksgiving,


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