Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Other Side

the years teach much which the days never knew
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I sit at our dining room table to write my first words in five months, I am realizing just how much I've missed writing about both my personal and professional life experiences. Though my family and close friends may know my reasons for this unplanned break, you, my friends and readers from StorytellERdoc, do not. So instead of diving head-first into writing a funny, planned posting, I thought I might simply change course to write and say "hello" and "how the hell are you" to each of you.

Let me briefly explain my absence. Simply, I began to have some vision problems last November, ultimately resulting in urgent surgery. Always the doctor and never the patient, this was my first real health scare. Following successful eye surgery, I was forced to take a few months time to recover. This break included absolutely no gym time and, most odd for me, no work time. Looking back on my career, I had never had so much as a week or two break from working in the ER. This inactivity, at first painfully frustrating, ultimately proved to be one of the greatest learning experiences thus far in my life.

For the first few weeks following surgery, I had to wear an eye patch, a blue, oval-shaped piece of perforated aluminum paper-taped to my face. With this new accessory, I spent much time in front of the mirror, looking to find that invincible, healthy fellow I once was. I couldn't find him. Friends tried to make me feel better, telling me I looked "sexier" with an eye-patch, but I saw through their flimsy compliment--the only way to look sexier, I reasoned while laughing with them, was to have sexy to begin with. My kids, hesitant at first, realized that patch or no patch, I was still the same Dad that I had always been. In fact, soon after surgery, Cole had a basketball game that I wanted to attend. "Cole," I asked, "is it okay if I come to your game with my patch or would you rather I stay home?" Without even a hint of pause, his resounding reply inspired me. "Of course you are coming, Dad, why wouldn't you?"

After several weeks, I was able to lose the eye patch. More importantly, with healing and some serious introspection and reflection, I was able to regain my perspective of what is most important in this journey of life. Family. Friends. Humor. Love. Compassion and kindness. Living a purposeful life.

Part of this time away included reevaluating my job differently. Although I still considered kindness and compassion at the forefront of my ER interactions with patients and their families, even I was not immune to a growing cynicism that occasionally seems to be pervading our medical field. Maybe this had even leaked itself into some previous writings. Luckily, though, I feel more privileged than I ever have, since residency even, in walking the halls of our emergency department and providing care to such a diverse and unique collection of patients. Of course, there will always be patients that are obnoxiously difficult, but my reserve to find something good in each and every patient has definitely been refueled. I've been honestly warned, however, by several of my hard-working partners. "Just give it a few months, Jim," they said, "and then see if you feel the same way about things." I can only hope that I have some great staying-power. I feel I do.

Being a patient, I have also learned and witnessed first-hand just how important a role a doctor can play in one's recovery. Luckily, I am surrounded by four absolutely incredible individuals who have prioritized being a compassionate person first and playing a doctor second, proving that one doesn't need to place himself on a pedestal to be amazing at what he can do. This all-star team of providers, however, did not come without some rearranging on my part. I removed from my team, so to speak, one nationally-recognized specialist who was less than stellar in both his personality and in his style of delivering unwanted news. Although this specialist may have been quite good at what he does, I was less than impressed with his all-around abilities to communicate. To heal well and remain positive throughout my ordeal, I insisted on only being surrounded by similar individuals.

Overall, I have much to be thankful for. An almost complete recovery. A supportive family. Supportive friends. And supportive co-workers. What could have been a terrible outcome was not. For this reason, I will always be humble and grateful. Returning to work, I was greeted with many kindnesses and friendly, encouraging words. Hugs included. I also returned to some sadness as well. One of my favorite nurses, Sue, tragically lost her son during my absence. My ordeal embarrassingly pales in comparison to this tragic event of her life. To hug her and share tears with her as she attempted to give me a warm welcome-back smile speaks volumes of her strength and character.    

So there you have it. Officially, I have now returned to my life as I know it. Playing doctor full-time. Playing Dad full-time. Attempting to be a writer again. And, most importantly, continuing to look at my wife with complete wonderment, appreciating more than ever her infinite strength, support and love. Except for the glasses outwardly, my most significant changes from my ordeal have come from within. For this, I am most appreciative. I am stronger than ever, actually. As Ralph wisely stated above, the small day-to-day battles were worth the positive hindsight of it all.

It feels so very good to be back...

As always, I thank you much for reading, my friend. More importantly, I thank you for your patience and returning to read my words.

57 comments:

FF said...

I've long enjoyed your blog and often wondered the past few months where you've been. This heartfelt post was beautifully written and I'm glad to hear you are back, and healthy. Best wishes, and thank you.

Holly said...

Welcome back, I missed you.

Marc Bernard said...

Glad to see you back! I missed you.

Rick said...

Glad you're back.

AtYourCervix said...

Good to have you back! Always interesting when you are in the patient role, isn't it?

Blessed said...

Glad to hear of your recovery, and hope your transition back into writing is peaceful and natural. : )

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

So good to hear that you are on the mend and recovering enough to go back to the regular life we all miss when stuff like this happens. May your recovery continue and your life's changes reamin important.

Cal said...

Although I was missing your writing, I had assumed you were frantically working on a book, so I was happy for you. I am sorry to hear that the reality was less pleasant. Hope your return to work and life almost as usual is good. Hope you carry on recovering and that your health is fully restored.
Take care!

Liz said...

WELCOME BACK!

i'm so glad to find out that you are well, and selfishly, am excited to hear from you once again!

thanks for posting:-).

lizzy

Christine Claire Reed said...

Oh, my, something happened also to your pen, Dr. Captain America, because this is THE MOST lucid, articulate, natural, lovely writing you have ever produced. Wow. Took my breath away. I wish you could see even just a fraction of the change in your writing that I have been witness to.

jimbo26 said...

As Fonzie would say " Heyyyyyyyyy " . Welcome back my friend . Jim ( UK ) .

Marcy Hall said...

I MISSED YOU!!!!

YAY!!!!!!!!!

littlepretendnurse said...

SOO glad to see you back Doc. We've all missed you. And get glad to hear you are better both physically and spiritually.

It must have been so scary to lose ones eyesight that way. My eyes have never been stellar (glasses since grade 1) but reading is my great escape. To have that taken even temporarily scares me.

Looking forward to more great posts!

LPN

Tatua said...

So glad to see you bacl again.
I've been a long time lurker and I don't comment very often as I am not very fluent in english.

I went to check for blog updates ever so often and eventually got that uneasy feling that you have when you drive by a friends house and and the curtains are always closed and you start to worry what the hell ist going on.

Good to hear that is 'just' a temporary illness that kept you from sharing your wonderful stories of compassion.

merinz said...

Oh its so so good to have you back, and fit and healthy again. And thank you for sharing your health reasons with us.

Welcome back.

Laanykidsmom said...

I have missed your blog. I am not blogging as much due to a new job, but I still read just a few that I like. Glad you are back and that your surgery was successful!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

well THERE you are! welcome back friend. while you were gone my sweet charlie went to heaven and i am coping with the loss. some days graciously, some days not so much.

glad you are better!

smiles, bee
xoxo

DT said...

Welcome back! Glad to hear that you are back to health and looking forward to more of your words.

BossNurse said...

*big grin* I'm SO happy you're back. I missed your wonderful posts. I'm glad that you've recovered and are back to work--your patients are lucky to have you!

Katie said...

I did a double take when I saw your name appear on my blogroll. I think it might have been last week I was thinking, "Gosh, I miss Jim's posts." So it's good to see you back. Sorry to hear about the trauma you've been through and about Sue's son as well. Keep pushing through that writing rust. Clearly at least nineteen of us are still sitting here patiently waiting. ;-)

<>< Katie

Robin said...

I have missed your blog a lot! I am so glad you are back at work and felling good. Keep it up......

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for returning to your blog. I'm sorry for what you went through, but I appreciate the honesty you express in this post, as usual. As I continue through medical school, you serve as a reminder of why I joined this profession. Your voice is a welcome contradiction to many others out there who are, as you point out, much more cynical.

Doctor Matt said...

I'm also very glad to see you back, and wish you the best in your health and also in staving away the cynicism. You sound like a great dad, and a great doctor!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back - have missed your insightful posts. My dear husband has had 3 rounds of eye surgeries and says it is a truly humbling experience & forces you to count your blessings in life. Take Care.

murgatr
Pharm.Tech. RDC'06

DownDoggin in MN said...

Welcome back, I have missed your writing and your stories. I'm so glad to hear you have a positive outcome to a scary situation. I look forward to your new posts!

Millie said...

Hey! So glad to see you back. I've checked your blog every week and I really missed one the very best blog writers out there. Have a happy day :)

Anonymous said...

welcome back!

landlockedtxn said...

glad you are healed and back in action! missed your uplifting posts!

emily said...

Welcome back! I have been checking your blog from time to time and am happy to know you're well.

I'm a longtime ED nurse and taking a break from it all has been one of the best things I ever did for myself and for my patients. You really go back with a renewed heart.

All the best.

Rositta said...

Welcome back. I'm happy to hear that your vision is better. I know how absolutely terrifying that can be from my own experience...ciao

Winking Doll said...

Welcome back doc! Love reading your articles and how you find the good in each and every person.

Karen said...

Glad to hear you are well. Welcome back!

SeaSpray said...

WELCOME BACK JIM!!! {{{{{JIM}}}}}

I'm so sorry you had your eyesight compromised and had to go through all of that. What a blessing to be surrounded by such loving, compassionate and positive people in your life.

"With this new accessory, I spent much time in front of the mirror, looking to find that invincible, healthy fellow I once was. I couldn't find him" Those words moved me greatly, because that is how I feel with what I've been struggling with and silent about for the most part until last post and will be more forthcoming in the next one. But ..also because of the other health challenges in recent years too. this is your post and don't want to digress, but just that I have been afraid I was losing who I always was and don't want to be seen as less than in any way. Too complicated to say here ..but Jim ..your words spoke to me.

What a great son. Indicative of his loving parenting, I'm sure. I know how you felt here too and my family has responded as your son did.

It's interesting at how much more compassion we gain when having been on the provider side of patient care ...we then become the patient who has experienced a significant health challenge ..or endured a chronic health challenge.

Sounds like you have an excellent ED team. Your patients are blessed.

I am sorry to hear about your coworker's son. I wish her healing, peace and sweet memories replacing her grief.

Thank you for sharing Jim. So GLAD you're back! :)

medrecgal said...

Lovely to see you're back and doing well! The update is much appreciated, and here's to hoping that the writing is as regular and stellar as it always was.

mishall magarzo said...

I was once diagnosed of sinusitis.. :{
http://www.westcoastent.org

Anonymous said...

Glad you are back and better. I missed your writings.

N Love,RN said...

Welcome back and glad to hear you are doing well. We missed you!

Wren said...

I missed your words, Dr. Jim. I'm so glad that you've recovered from your health scare and that you're back with us, writing and sharing from your unique perspective. Your kindness and humanity shine through every word. Welcome back!

JoyfulJ said...

I'm so glad your back, and I'm glad you've made a good recovery!
I've missed your sweet out look on life and dealing with impossible people.

BarefootMedStudent said...

I'm so glad you're okay! Welcome back.

Leslie said...

Welcome back! I've missed you.

Sorry to hear about your illness, but grateful you are healing well.

rlbates said...

Welcome back! So happy to know you are doing well. :)

sew said...

Wow, so glad you're back! I've missed you and just randomly checked in here today. I'm sorry to hear you needed eye surgery but glad it was successful. I know just what you mean about looking in the mirror. My issues have been very minor, but they showed me I am not invincible. Not sure why I thought I was in the first place, but there you go. I'm very much looking forward to hearing from you again soon.

Louise said...

Thank you for updating us all on your eye problem and recovery. You've been missed!

Anonymous said...

Good to have you back ... and that you are doing well.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back. I'm glad everything turned out ok in the end.

rapnzl rn said...

Grateful to have you back! Relieved you have recovered well!

Heartwarming to learn you made a bit of lemonade out of your 'lemons'.

NurseJannie said...

Welcome back doc. You've been missed :-)

kamagra said...

I enjoy reading your blog, a daily routine of our everyday life. The most important about our self is our health.I'm very much concern of your health so that I can read more interesting blogs from you.

Jen said...

I'm so glad you are back. I hope to find a doctor one day as compassionate as you.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are ok. Visual issues are terrifying.

G-31 Toastmasters said...

Glad to read your posts again. I was worried that Cynicism had won. I am glad it was "just" a health crisis. Laugh! I hope you know what I mean. I'm not making light of your issue, but am very grateful that you did not succumb to insurmountable cynicism.

I would like to send a prayer shawl to your co-worker, the nurse who lost her son. I think you can figure out how to reach me via this comment. If not, then it wasn't meant to be. But if it's to be, then you will be able to find a way to tell me how to send her a prayer shawl. She will be deeply on my heart. My parents buried two sons (and I two brothers... when I was 20 and 40). It's unthinkable heart-break. If a prayer shawl could ease her burden even the tiniest bit, it would be my honor to prayer for her peace as I knit, crochet, or sew one.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Dr Jim

I know that you owe nothing to me - a non-medical person from England - but I just want to say that I've often checked your blog for updates (from my work computer) because I value the insight you can provide.

I'm glad you're back and please pass my thoughts to your family.

Peter

MedSW said...

The last couple of weeks, I've been on a medical LOA from being a hospital social worker. Huge adjustment from a crazy busy environment to not being able to do much as I recover from surgery. I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed and appreciated reading your blog. You have an eloquent way of expressing the day-to-day adventures we face in an ED setting!

Heather said...

I know I have been terrible at commenting and giving you virtual fist bumps...

But, we all have our crosses to bear (right?)! ;)

I'm thankful that you are back to work and feeling better. I, like you, chose introspection and family (thus quitting my blogging life)...and I am really happy with the decision.

But I am most happy that you are back writing....it gives me hope!

Heather

alhire said...

nice to hear that you are doing well and come back...
homecare

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