Brother David’s birthday was this past Friday and it is now 88 years for me in a couple of weeks. These and the anniversary of my graduation from medical school June 6, 1957 inspired me to revisit an old entry. Little has changed other than the nerves in the eyes are beginning to go. I am grateful beyond words for the gift of the additional 10 years of good vision surgery gave me.
My 77 year love affair.
At the age of 4 on viewing with awe and great curiosity my just born brother I was told the doctor had brought him. Later in the day, riding my tricycle and reflecting, I proclaimed I wanted to be doctor.
What greater more awesome inspiration is there than the notion of bringing life ?
Seventy-seven years later and humbled by the discovery that no human wills the creation of life nor owns life, I am still in love with doctoring. Recent experiences, one public and two personal have brought forward the force of that love.
I felt useful once again in weeks of standing by a friend losing a daughter empathizing with what the medical people were doing and attempting to aid my friend to understand and permit the help that was there to support them. I recall what an honor it is to be permitted to be with people in their times of most intense and private of experiences; to hope that my presence is useful.
Then just the other night there was on TV the image of a neonatal nurse holding a ‘peanut sized” infant (all kinds of wires and tubes trailing) in the lacuna above her collar bone Ambu bagging it. Surrounded by a group of, I later learned, 9 supporting people they were trekking down teens of flights of stairs to safety from the onslaught of the Hurricane Sandy. CNN interviewed her later. Even with the most wonderful “New Yawk” accent I have heard in years she casually described what she was doing was little more than she had been for the past 36 years. I knew that woman immediately.
She is the icon of the nurses determined to make babies live and to make me a doctor of babies.
The final and most personal is my acquiring new vision this past month as I presented myself twice two weeks apart to the medical care team that extracted the dirtied up lenses of 81 years replacing them with bright transparent bits of plastic. The second procedure went exactly as the first. Well practiced and “routine.” The follow up visit was as routine and I imagined probably the 6th or so of 15 or so my ophthalmologist would see that day.
Banal; the doctoring had brought to this one human being glorious color and clarity not experienced for thirty years. Activities avoided for years are now cherished. Joy in life indescribable.
What the doctoring folks do is practice a profession. It is through repetition making the extraordinary banal that the particular human need is served. It is no more entertainment than it is theology. I cringe when I see it characterized as either.As with that premature baby, it is the quality of the experience of those that are served that is sacred. The well practiced team members of nurses, technologists, clerks, and one lone soul bearing the appellation “doctor” comprised the envelop for its survival.
My wonderful and most loved Elizabeth (Betsy) Harrington described us best in her poem “Waiting for the Doctor”
“Ordinary. So ordinary it could be the voice
of someone in front of you at McDonald’s
ordering a cheeseburger with fries.”
I prefer Big Macs but I know he and I share the feeling that just “being there” is enough to nourish a life time.