Theologically questionable; still pretty funny!

Theologically questionable; still pretty funny!

Living and working in ‘Smite-ville.’

My partner, the sagacious Dr. Doug McGuff, has many words of wisdom.  I hope that he will one day collect them in a book, because generations of people will benefit.

One of his pearls of wisdom is that, in emergency medicine (indeed, medicine in general), we live and work in ‘Smite-ville.’   That is, it always seems as if we care for patients who have been smitten by some terrible event, some awful disease.  His point was not that we are witnessing punishment, or even that the world is necessarily more horrible than we thought, but that we who work in emergency rooms and hospitals often see the worst of everything.  Emergency departments and hospitals are where horrors come to rest.

We work in places where suffering  is distilled in some of its most toxic forms; 200 proof, high-test, pure grain misery is wheeled through our doors, into our treatment rooms, ICU’s and OR’s all day and every day.

What we forget is that it’s a selection bias.  What we forget is that untold numbers of people go through life never seeing anyone die horribly, never giving anyone life-altering news of their own disease, their loved one’s demise.

Day after day, millions go to work, do their jobs, go home, eat, laugh, play and never wonder what scary thing will come in next and challenge their ability to treat, and cope, with the suffering of others.

This has come home to me powerfully since my wife’s diagnosis of cancer.  While we are early in the game, and while she has unpleasant therapies to endure, her prognosis is pretty good.  However, I too easily imagine only the worst.  My mind, through years of experience, ever runs to terrible outcomes.  To disability, to death.

I have worked a long time in ‘Smite-ville.’  I’m proud of that, and I’m not really sure what else I would do.  I don’t write this to whine or complain.  Rather, to remind everyone working in medicine that our experiences must not always be extrapolated to every situation in our lives.

Frequently, there is hope.  We would do well to remember that, for our own sanity and the sanity of those we love.  And so we do not lose sight of the good in the midst of all of the troubles through which we move, day after day, night after night, in our little village of Smite-ville.


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