This is from the thirty-nin
THE BEST MEDICINE
Carl’s recovery was long, slow, and painful.
During the first week in ICU, he suffered from shock and multi-organ failure. For a short time, he was on a ventilator and a dialysis machine. Because of intractable hypotension and diffuse leakage of fluid from his back, I had to give him massive amounts of intravenous fluids (up to 10 liters per day at one point). He also required lots of albumin replacement IV.
By the second post-op week, Carl was out of ICU. He suffered a lot of pain, but when his sense of humor returned, I knew he was out of the woods.
Fortunately, Carl had a good bit of help exercising his notorious sense of humor. One or more of his fishing buddies sat by his bedside for most of his hospitalization. When he felt discouraged, they were there with their terribly sophomoric jokes, and they’d incessantly kid him about his hospital gown. When he felt like giving up, they encouraged him and cheered him up.
One Saturday I was rounding with Kate at my side. I’d often take the children on rounds with me. The patients enjoyed getting to know them, and the kids seemed to enjoy entering their dad’s world. On this day, Kate and I went to see Carl. They seemed to have an instant bond, and from that day until his death they were close.
Carl’s pals were in the room that day. One of them looked across the bed at Kate and commented, “Katie, you are really walking well!”
Kate scowled at him. “My name’s Kate!” she corrected.
He laughed and set her on his lap. “Well then, Kate. You are walking very, very well.”
“My surgery was a success,” she bragged. “Dr. Fitch says I am one of his best patients ever!”
“You’re not fibbing to me, are you, Kate?”
“No sir. I don’t tell stories. Mama says that’s bad.”
“Honey, do you want to know how you can tell when big Carl is lying?”
“How?” she asked.
“His lips are moving!”
The entire group melted into shrieks of laughter.
Another day, one of them told me, “Doc, Carl says you used a monster needle on his back. Carl, show Doc how big that ole needle was!”
Carl’s effervescent smile filled the room as he held up his one arm. Where a man with two arms might have held out his hands to show how long the needle had been, Carl had only one. Holding out his hand and pretending to eyeball the length of the needle, he exclaimed, “It was this big!”
And just as it had brought laughter on the docks of the Fontana marina, the effect was even greater in the hospital.
I smiled, but Carl’s friends shook in laughter—causing Maxine to enter the room. “You all better shush up!” she scolded. “Don’t make me come back in here and throw you out of the hospital like I had to last night!” They thought she was angry, but I could see the twinkle in her eye.
On another day, I walked into the laughter emanating from Carl’s hospital room. One of Carl’s friends was able to stop laughing long enough to look at me and remark, “Morning, Doc. We was just talkin’ about Carl’s funeral. I was asking Carl what he wanted me to say when I saw him in his big ole coffin.” The man began to snicker. “Tell Doc, Carl. Tell him what you told me you want me to say!”
The men were all laughing so hard that tears were running down their cheeks. Carl wiped his tears and between guffaws looked at me and said, “Doc, when I’m in my coffin, I want Jimmy here to say, ‘Looky there, he’s breathin’!’”
The room erupted in laughter—including mine.
Carl’s pals provided for me a powerful lesson on the incredible healing influence of friends and community. It was true Ray and I had played a crucial role in recognizing Carl’s pathologic process and then initiating a treatment plan that made his healing possible. But it’s equally true that his friends were critical to his healing and even truer that they were responsible for his recovery.
As I left Carl’s room that day, I thought back to Sam Cunningham, who believed that no one really cared for him. I reflected on Anne Smith and the other patients of mine who didn’t feel close to anyone, who felt they had no one in whom to confide or to help them out of a bind. I considered my patients, such as Tim Johnson, who seethed in anger or harbored bitterness and grudges—those who simply could not practice forgiveness. It was my impression that these types of people had far more difficulty recovering from disarray, disease, or disaster—and premature death was much more likely to visit them. Thankfully, Tim had overcome his disability. Even more thankfully, Carl never suffered from it.
I learned in Bryson City in those early days of my practice that the impact our relationships and our attitudes have on our becoming or staying healthy cannot be overstated. My patient’s friends taught me that, apart from our immediate family relationships, friends who love and care for us, who assure us that their unconditional support or help is available, provide a powerfully positive health benefit.
In fact, Solomon, considered one of the wisest teachers of all time, wrote, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” He also wisely pointed out that “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (See Proverbs 27:17 and 17:22.)
Finally, four weeks after admission, Carl was ready for discharge. It would be another six weeks before the large wounds on his back would be completely healed, and then six months of rehabilitation before he’d be back down to the dock at Lake Fontana, laughing and clowning around with his fishing buddies.
But if it weren’t for them, I’m not sure he would have made it in the first place.
Carl was blessed to have friends who were happy and who laughed easily—and they were good medicine for his heart, his spirit, his soul, and his body.
TO BE CONTINUED
PAST STORIES FROM BRYSON CITY SEASONS
- Dead Man Standing (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- Eyes Wide Open (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Auspicious Accidents (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Answered Prayers (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4)
- Rotary Luncheon
- Death by Emotion (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4)
- The Invitation (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Barbecue and Bacon (Part 1), (Part 2)
- A Touchy Subject
- Family Time (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Chicken Pops(Part 1), (Part 2)
- Swain County Football (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Hospital Politics (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- The Bobcat Attacks (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Dungeons and Apples
- A Tale of Two Surgeons (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
Feets(Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- Wise Counsel (Part 1), (Part 2)
- An Anniversary to Remember (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Mrs. Black Fox (Part 1), (Part 2)
- The Littlest Cherokee (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Christmas Firsts (Part 1), (Part 2)
- The Silver Torpedo
- Another New Year’s Catch
- Turned Tables
- Doctor Dad (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- The Phone Tap (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Labor Pains (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Staph and Staff (Part 1), (Part 2)
- The Ribbon Cutting
- Mountain Breakfast
- Walkingstick (Part 1), (Part 2)
- One Big Fish
- Memorial Day (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Parade of the Century (Part 1)
- Lost Boy (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Facing the Music
- Flesh-Eating Bacteria (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Best Medicine
PAST STORIES FROM BRYSON CITY TALES
- The Murder (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Arrival (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Hemlock Inn (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Grand Tour (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Interview (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Settling In (Part 1); (Part 2)
- First-Day Jitters (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Emergency (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Delivery (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The “Expert” (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Trial (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Shiitake Sam (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina; (Part 2); (Part 3); (Part 4)
- White Lies
- The Epiphany (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Monuments (Part 1); (Part 2)
- My First Home Victory (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Fisher of Men (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Something Fishy (Part 1); (Part 2)
- A Good Day at the Office
- An Evening to Remember
- Another New Doc Comes to Town
- ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1); (Part 2)
- A Surprising Gift
- The New Year (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Home Birth (Part1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Showdown (Part1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Initiation (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Home at Last (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
© Copyright WLL, INC. 2019. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.