I have on my desk a photo of the daugh­ters (7, 12) of the 29 year old woman who I ordered the fatal dose of mor­phine for when the pain of her colon can­cer rode up on her like the wild horses in East­ern Ore­gon and never left. The kids are smil­ing, their arms draped over my the shoul­ders of my white coat, it is years after and they came by to say thank you. I am smil­ing in the photo also. Time and the process of re-knitting their lives is slowly putting them back together.

I have on my desk the pho­to­graph of the woman who is now an EMT. When I met her she had been shot in the chest by her hus­band. I was a chief res­i­dent and my pro­fes­sor was Dr. Davis, a crusty, cyn­i­cal trauma sur­geon who I loved for his com­pas­sion. We took her entire right lung out. Doing this in a young per­son is usu­ally fatal because all the blood that returns to the heart has to go to the lungs for oxy­gen and then back out to the body. If one lung dis­ap­pears, the other lung has to imme­di­ately com­pen­sate. It usu­ally fails. But Dr. Davis had some tricks up his sleeve. We ran her flu­ids light, kept her “dry” used diuret­ics and she sur­vived. Fif­teen years later I got a beau­ti­ful por­trait and the let­ter that said she was alive, that her ex was in prison, that she had returned to school to become and EMT like the ones who had saved her, her daugh­ter all good, and me, all those years later, tear­ing down my cheeks, lov­ing the mir­a­cle of it all. She is a woman with­out doubt, with­out hes­i­ta­tion, with all her sin­gle lung power, with her voice.

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8 Responses to V.

  1. Sue Kay says:

    My story about you is a car­ing man whose car­ing some­times comes at a cost. My story about me is that car­ing always car­ries a cost — but the cost is worth it. Car­ing, to me, is worth it. Put a pic­ture of you look­ing at your son on your desk — now that expres­sion of love on your face is what I see…

  2. Stephanie says:

    Med­i­cine can be a two headed dragon…in one minute you are sav­ing a life and in the next you are watch­ing a patient take their last breath with no regard to how hard you tried to save them. You have always been an empa­thetic sur­geon and you have con­nected with your patients in many ways…lifelong ways. I agree 100% with Sue that a photo of you and your son should be placed on your desk because now you are so full of com­pas­sion to go along­side that empa­thy. You are a great sur­geon and you are a won­der­ful person…always my friend, for­ever my mentor!

  3. Barbara says:

    It all feels like a mys­tery in one sense of who sur­vives, and if they do sur­vive how they will use that sur­vival.….…… inspir­ing to read the sto­ries about your patients and how they affect you, and how it affects all of us who read about them.

  4. Stephen L. parkhurst says:

    This post has touched my heart. Stephen, thanks for shar­ing this.

  5. Merissa says:

    No doubt, there are angels among us! God Bless You, Steven

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