Bin Laden was killed today, almost ten years after the towers fell. I wonder how important he still is to the network that he is connected to. Did the root get pulled today or was it a pruning? In any case, I felt relieved that he is gone.
In medicine it is often true that we think we have done the right thing, made a good decision or discovered a great treatment, but later, after all the consequences are known, we find that we did not know enough and that we couldn‘t know enough. I think sometimes our premise is off to begin with. Western medicine, which is what I practice, does not take a systems view of our bodies. Even saying the word body does not take in to account that a person is more than her body. The system runs infinitely deeper and wider. We are more than our bodies. We are more than our thoughts. Our thoughts are not really even our mind. My self looks at itself and knows the thoughts I think are running through me the way the Deschutes River runs through town. My friend Jodi says that her mind is simply something that thinks. Thinking is what it does, but it is not her – and she cannot quiet the mind, any more than she can stop the river from flowing. The medicine I practice does not take any of this in to account most of the time. It can‘t. We are not smart enough.
After much long experience we have learned some things that are usually useful. It is good to tie off a blood vessel that is bleeding, for instance. But even that can be tricky. If that blood vessel happens to be one of the vessels that feeds the lungs (there are two) and you suddenly make all the blood go to other lung, it creates a flood to the remaining lung and the patient can drown. Stopping the bleeding (good) was potentially fatal (not so good). This is an extreme example, but I was involved in a case in which it almost happened.
A young woman was shot in the chest by her husband and the vessel to her right lung was gaping. Our only choice was to tie off the vessel. She miraculously survived, and a decade later sent me an amazing letter of what her life had become. She went in to the criminal justice system and was working to protect women from abusive partners. The treatment for the near-fatal shooting should also have been fatal, but it wasn‘t. Sometimes, trying to the right thing to treat a problem, doesn‘t turn out well. That is a complication, and they are complicated, and humbling. Nothing points out the limits of what I know as a doctor as quickly as a complication does.
I can‘t see the forest connected to the trees that I operate on. I strain my eyes and still can only see this little, injured branch. About the best I can do is to remember that every person is connected to innumerable people and, in fact, connected to me.