Last night my wife and I went on a date.  She had a craving for sushi, so we went to our favorite sushi bar and enjoyed a very nice dinner.  Later, around 3 am, I had stomach cramps and assorted other vile symptoms that led me to wonder about the possibility that something disagreed with me.  Now, so as not to cast doubt on the talented souls who prepared our sushi, let me remind you that I had worked four shifts seeing patients with every sort of cough, cold, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and all the rest.  Furthermore, yesterday I had left-overs at work; including the little leftover mini-cheeseburger my children didn’t eat on Thursday night, and that we left in the fridge.

I don’t know what it was.  Odds are, from the way I chilled in the bed, it was nothing more than a viral illness contracted in the emergency department.  However, everything I ate yesterday now sounds incredibly repulsive to me.  Who knows what did it?

So, in order to spare the family the possibility of a communicable illness rather than food poisoning, I stayed in bed.  I watched television and slept.  I ate saltines and drank diet sprite.  I rolled over and fluffed pillows.  I cuddled the stuffed bunny my daughter Elysa so graciously shared with me.  (There’s nothing wrong with cuddling a stuffed bunny, so back off!)

In fact, I lay in bed until my head-hurt and my back ached.  Unlike usual, I didn’t interact with the kids.  I hated it.  If I’m off work, I want to talk with them, play with them, hang around with them, read Bible stories to them, take them to their lessons.  Today, I didn’t.  And the sounds of the house all around me were an unfortunate reminder that so many of our patients have to live with illnesses that keep them from all the small joys of life.

I had a long list of things to do today.  I realized how most of them could wait.  It’s a vital lesson.  In our constant frenetic communication, in our angst over activities and accomplishments, lying in bed ill is a difficult reminder that the world spins on beneath us, and we are probably less critical than we would like to admit.

And yet, it’s very liberating.  It isn’t that important to answer every e-mail, do every bit of paperwork, make every phone-call.  It’s important to feel well, and to feel whole.  It’s important to get better.  Not because of all the minutiae of life, but because tomorrow, I want to be with my wife and kids.  I want to talk with them and hang out, I want to laugh and play.  The rest can, unbelievably, wait even another day!

When we care for the sick who are bed-ridden, or whose illnesses knock them flat, we should remember that even though some few enjoy the sick role, and would rather lie in bed than almost anything, most of our patients want what we want; a return, as soon as possible, to normality.

And we should never forget the sheer boredom and misery of watching the absolute waste-land of day-time television and trying not to think about what food might have made us ill.

As she left my room, my little girl Elysa (who brought me the bunny) said, ‘I’ll pray for you.  I’ll pray for you now!’
I’m better already.

I’ll pray for you now, too.  Have a speedy recovery from whatever has weakened you; body, mind or soul.


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