Landscape Photographer

Tonight I took an old woman back to the operating room because she had a bowel obstruction. Two things here: One: we are built like donuts and our donut hole does not tolerate a twist. Two: she had been to the OR recently for another operation and this obstruction resulted from her bowel–part of the donut “hole” we are made of, twisting. She called me at 6 in the morning. We made it to surgery at precisely 6 pm. Moving one human being through the warrens of a hospital system is a, sometimes, all day affair.

Finally she was in pre-op holding and she looked at me solid and straight-faced and said: Why are we here?

The window we can look through is not the whole picture. It is important, but in the shadows around what we think we see are shadows with whole other worlds, maybe meaningless and maybe really important, mostly dark. She, Madge, was drifting in and out of pain and mortality and trust. She held my hand while I explained again what we were about to do and she only nodded. Consent.

While we were starting the operation a nurse asked Ray, the anesthesiologist, where is your daughter going to college next year. His answer…etc. She said, is that your choice or will you send her wherever will make her happy. Wise Ray: “Not my job to make her happy.” That is a profound truth. What you feel is what you feel, even if your name is My Son. Happy, Sad, Lonely, I don’t make you feel those things. I make you safe as I can so you can feel whatever the next feeling is. Go for it. Feel it all.

My patient did well with surgery today, I hope. I don’t know. I see through a glass, darkly, I know in part, but (maybe) then I shall know, even as I am known. That is a Bible verse I remember. I am always struck by the beauty of so many verses, like this one. How great to know, even as well as I am known by the person/god/entity that made me. So, she, Madge, is in the hospital recovering and my fallibility is as evident as her mortality and I hope there is an inverse correlation between the two. To be clear: get well soon Madge.

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6 Responses to Landscape Photographer

  1. Bobbi says:

    I love this piece; beautiful, tight writing. Continue….

  2. Barbara says:

    I am sending this post to a friend of yours for this simple sentence:
    I make you safe as I can so you can feel whatever the next feeling is. Go for it. Feel it all.

  3. Stephen L Parkhurst says:

    I can relate with your patient, I’m struggling through a similar experience now. But, I’m most intrigued by your point of view as a surgeon…especially since, as a patient, we see life through a different window though we are in the same room. Thanks Stephen.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Just wonderful. I had to mull over this for a few days. I really love the phrase “but in the shad­ows around what we think we see are shad­ows with whole other worlds”.

    • Stephen and Kathleen, thank you. Yes, shadows within shadows, through a glass darkly, the murkiness of the present in comparison to the past or in comparison to the mirage of the future.

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