September 23, 2019
What was the most important and memorable day of your life? Was it the day you met your wife? Married your wife? Perhaps it was your children’s birthdays. Or was it the day your loved one died? The day you won the lottery? There are lots of answers and the answers often change depending on your current circumstances.
Mine is the day G-d first talked to me. I’ve never been very religious. I would say I’m more spiritual than religious. In the early days of my practice of medicine, I often had trouble relating to patients whose faith was a mainstay in their lives. I would support their religious beliefs as they related to their health and that of their families but doubted that their fates were going to be modified by prayer or ceremony. My science would save them.
Then several things happened. First, I got a call from Good Shepherd Hospital. The nurse told me that my DNR patient, we’ll call him Mr. Q, was dying and she wanted me to come over and see him. Mr. Q knew and accepted the fact that he was going to die. His wife knew he was going to die. This was pre-hospice times and he was hospitalized to die in peace. DNR means DO NOT RESUSITATE.
I explained all of the above to the nurse who still insisted that I come in to see my patient. The nurse was so adamant that I left the office and drove over to see MR. Q.
Here’s the interesting part. Upon entering Mr. Q’s room, I knew I had to keep him alive! My gut screamed at me. I did the unthinkable. I turned to Q’s wife and told her that I was going to rescind his DNR. I told her I didn’t know why I had to resuscitate him, I just knew I had to. I called a code, intubated my patient and sent him to the ICU.
He was alive. I was in trouble. I had broken the rules I lived by. I probably broke multiple medical rules. When Mr. Q woke up, he scribbled horrible things on the communication board. They weren’t nice. He was mad! I explained that, while I did not know why, I needed him to live another 24 hours. I promised that I would take the tube out in the morning and let him go. I told him to trust me and he did.
At the funeral, his wife pulled me aside. She told me I did not know he had a son. He had not talked to his son for many years and didn’t even mention his son when discussing family history. His son flew in the night he was in the ICU. They spent hours together (after the tube was removed) and healed the wounds that had festered for years.
I expected to hear from the Chair of the Department of Family Medicine, the ethics committee and medical staff president. I expected trouble. It never came. I learned one of my most valuable lessons. I learned to trust my gut. I learned that no matter how much I thought I was in control, that G-d could always take over and guide my care.
I had several other instances where I could clearly see G-d’s hand in my patient’s care. I discovered a powerful prayer group in Lake Zurich and will swear I saw an inordinately high number of miracles in my practice.
Then it stopped. I stopped hearing from G-d. The leaders of the Lake Zurich prayer group died. Miracles seemed to vanish. I grew to believe that G-d went on a protracted vacation. My calling/profession went to hell. The almighty computer linked to the insurer/government took control.
I got sick. Here I am today. More questions than ever and fewer answers. Is G-d on vacation? Am I losing my hearing and just can’t hear him? I am on the back nine and will fight to make the most out of every hole. One thing I know for sure; I’m supposed to write this blog. Perhaps visiting the past and writing will help answer my questions.
Next week starts the Jewish New Year, a time of reflection and atonement for past and future transgressions. I wish you all a healthy and happy New Year.