December 12, 2006

Changing Lives

I changed too many lives last night.

I don't like to change lives, because that usually means someone or their kid is about to die, or has cancer or a heart attack, or was murdered or raped.

I'm an ER doc. I take care of people when they are having the worst day of their life, and I never know how their day is going to affect me until the day after.

If I wake without detailed recollection of the night before, then it likely was an uneventful shift of colds and sprained ankles and gunshots to non-vital body parts.

But when I wake, like I did this morning, and immediately remember the people that abruptly entered and left my life last night, it usually means there was a lot of bad news. And it usually means that while they left me physically, they're still with me for the next few months and maybe years...

Like the 30 year old runner - yes, a runner, apparently 15 to 20 miles most weeks, and yes, 30 years old - with no health problem and no family history of early-age health problems who had what we call a widowmaker - a heart attack in the the worst possible anatomical location of the heart, the kind of heart attack that frequently kills people on the spot without even a chance of survival. He is alive, as of this morning, but he will never be the same.

Or the 56 year old guy with sudden onset of progressive leg weakness over the last couple of days. When I saw him, he couldn't even shift his legs in the bed. It royally sucked to tell him he had metastatic prostate cancer with spinal cord compression, essentially eliminating his chance of walking his daughter down the aisle at her January wedding. If he's alive for it...

Or the 42 year old guy who fell back off a ladder from a 2nd story roof, landed on his back and broke, nay shattered, his bony pelvis in such a way that he will have years of multiple staged surgeries before he has even a chance of a normal life.

Or the lady, and her 2 children and her in-laws, who sat sobbing but silent in disbelief when I told her that her husband was dead after he fell asleep driving and spun his car off the road into a tree.

Life sometimes sends us reminders that we are here on borrowed time. Nothing is really ours; we just use it and enjoy it for a few years and then it's gone. We're gone...

So we have to use what we have, what we are given, and make it count. There are no re-do's, there is no second chance. There is no time for regrets, and no place for re-living each yesterday.

There is only the here and now, and maybe there is a tomorrow.

And that, my friends, lets me appreciate everything I have, and everything around me, in a way I can't possibly describe... It keeps me satisfied, and it lets me know I'm complete even when I feel shattered.

And I couldn't ask for anything more...

Thanks for joining me for My Daily Spin.


Tim said...

Believe me you will be remembered for years as well by the people and families you helped. Just being there with those patients, even if there was nothing you could do for them but comfort them, is a lot. I know my neice wasn't alone on the road, but in the arms of an RN who stopped to try to help her when she died. Those family members will always be grateful you were there.

And you got it right, live for the moment. Cause you just don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.

Hang in there.

LoneStarCrank said...

What a difference you are making in the lives of so many people with your expertise and compassionate care.

Rock on TriJack.