Musings on Life and Medicine

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(Originally posted 7/10/2014)

Last Saturday, I injured myself.  This is the 3rd installment of my thoughts as I ponder this unique season and all it involves for my body, my heart, my mind, my family and friends and my God.  I hope it is encouraging for you to read as well.

Medicine. Yes and no.  Medicine is such a win/lose thing for me.  I’m grateful to live in a day and land where we have so many different medicines, pain killers and helpful drugs.  On the other hand, I am wary of what they may do to my insides.  On the other hand, I’m wary of the insanity that I feel when the pain is constant and inescapable.  So, I take my 600mg of ibuprofen and move on.  But then, there’s the weird feeling when I don’t know if it’s doing anything.  Should I feel remorse?  Or should I assume that symptoms would have been worse if I hadn’t taken anything?  Hmm.  It is seldom-to-never “take two of these and call me in the morning.”  More like, research this, consider how much your conscience allows you to take (if any at all), try not to offend the doctor when they offer it but you seem less-than-grateful because you’re evaluating everything, and debate how much pain you can endure versus the unknown side effects you might endure, all-the-while remembering that you did not and could not have gone to med school like the doctor who you do (in fact) respect…And call them in the morning…or afternoon..or whenever your illness/injury/pain allows you to call.  Oh, may I be patient with others who suffer with chronic difficulties and medical challenges.  Patient, that is, because there’s also this…

I speak English as my first language.  I have had so much privilege it hurts…well, it hurts less.  Hmm.  I live in a country with generally-trustworthy medical staff and professionals, with thousands of medicines available, and two or three hospitals within an hour’s drive…that we can afford to make.  After the initial ER visit and subsequent few days, we met with a physician’s assistant at our local hospital.  The check-in process was straight forward, the nurses were easy-going and the PA was pleasant to work with.  She regarded me with respect and even printed some extra information for me to take with me and read…which I could do.  Because I speak and read English at an above-average level.  Also, from a young age, my parents and friends reinforced in me the notion that I can face the challenges in front of me.  If I come across a word I don’t know, I look it up.  If I don’t understand something, I ask the doctors/nurses/PAs, or even Google.  Then, I have a sense that I can reasonably decipher the legitimacy of the answer.  That confidence and ability is huge in my life.  I bet it’s more important and more influential than I often assume.  It’s certainly more important than my typical expressed or felt gratitude to God and parents would suggest.

This is not a political post.  No, it’s a thought from a man who loves Jesus and is currently experiencing things that I seldom do.  Let’s be aware and loving to those who have less than we do.  Less education, fewer language skills (written, verbal, reading), less confidence to ask questions, less boldness to do so, less social power to demand answers – each of these things can negatively impact a person’s ability to comprehend what’s happening around them.  Prescriptions get mixed up, procedures go wrong and medical staff make mistakes.  If we can help people understand what’s happening to them or with their child’s medical care, we are helping them significantly.  If you speak a language other than English, could you volunteer in our community to be on-call as an interpreter for people who don’t communicate well in English?  I’ll help you do it!  We have no church building, but I bet we could find time and space to give training on how to communicate with medical staff and how to fill out forms or ask questions. This is not a government issue, it’s a human issue and especially an issue of opportunity for Christians as we seek to love our world like Jesus.  I took the clipboard with the jargon, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy statements and stuff.  When I did, I read what I was signing and I understood what was at stake.  And I signed it.  When I did, I trusted that the nice people in lab coats were not going to abuse the power I gave them.  Many people can’t do that.  Please, let’s take our talents and help bring peace and life to others, that’s what Jesus, the Prince of Peace did.  His language is love and his method was sacrifice.  We can speak that language through that method in our town too.

The roller coaster of recuperation:  I’ll keep this short, for those who are still reading.  Yesterday I had a meeting out and followed it up with a lunch meeting…out.  It was so great to be out of the house, see other people I love and enjoy my meetings.  I was loving life!  Then, when I got home and took off my boot, my leg looked like an inner tube; it was so swollen.  Then, came the pain.  Then came the discouragement.  Sometimes, healing is not on a simple trajectory of time=healing.  Sometimes it’s more of a roller coaster with ups and downs and good days and bad days.  That cycle can bring with it a host of frustrations and discouraging thoughts.  If you love someone who is hurting, please allow them that freedom.  It is hard for them to endure.  It would be a huge blessing for the healing person to have the emotional freedom to celebrate and grieve good days and bad days without expectations to always be “up” since time has passed and things should be improving.

When we complain:  Last thought for today.  It dawned on me that every time someone asks me how things are going, I don’t just answer for myself.  I answer for my family.  I answer for those who help me.  I answer for God.  If I complain, it doesn’t just reflect on my injury site.  Complaint reflects on the people who help me and the God who remains with me.  I don’t feel any compulsion to put on a happy face.  No, I’ll just say that it is sobering to remember that my wellbeing and how I think about my situation – and, therefore, how I talk about my situation – all these involve the full spectrum of things that are going on.  Today is a hard day.  My leg hurts because I pushed too hard yesterday.  But today, I also have perspective that I didn’t have two days ago (win!).  I also have a family who serves me in huge amounts (win!).  I have a church and friends who care for me so much (win!).  I have a God who has never left me despite my heart and actions that are so prone to turn away from Christ (uber win!).  So, these things don’t make me want to put on a happy face when I’m not happy.  Nope, but they do make me want to take all the things into account; not just the pain and difficulty, but the blessings and joys as well.  I hope you can find joys and be a source of joy to those who are hurting as well.