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The Real Business of The Day

by Lucky Garvin

This is a thing I’ve never been able to do: take the day at its full measure.  I’m at work. Now a solid day’s accomplishments might include putting in a chest tube, saving a patient in cardiac arrest. Something dramatic, satisfying; gratitude from the patient, thanksgiving from me.

No, instead of that, there was Miss Nora. Again. She’s got the cancer; it’s spread to her bones. Surgeons relieved her of her malignancy-encrusted left lower leg a several months ago. I’ve seen her twice since then. She’s been having this pain in her left hip. She knows what it means.

She comes in on a wheel chair, and rolls the hall with half-wild eyes waiting to be seen.

So terrified is she of the disease that reduces her, she cannot sit still. Her hair is wispy and thinned from her treatments. That which remains is disheveled with that carelessness of appearance, that distraction which real fear brings.

Over her last two visits, she began to see me through her veil of worry. She put a name to my face. Not an anonymous ER doc, but Dr. Garvin.  She’s anxious; can’t sleep; can’t eat. Her family is unable to do anything for her; they’re worried sick. I tell them she has an enemy inside and it frightens her in a way we’ve never been frightened. For sixty years she’s had two legs; never gave it a second thought. Now she has but one, and her left hip’s hurting…

On those last two visits, I talked to her; gave her some medicine to relax her tortured anxiety; set her up with some counseling. Then she smiled at me. First time. I hugged her. She went home.

But today she is back in the ER. Terrible night; pain all over. I saw her name on the patient board. I should have just gone in to see her. Had I done that, I would have been on top of the business. But one of my partners beat me to it. I should have grabbed up her chart ahead of the others, gone in and just hugged her.

I can’t do anything about the problem in her body, but how about her soul? Maybe I would have been given the words she needed to hear. I mean you are supposed to be a healer, aren’t you, Garvin? And when you can’t heal, you’re supposed to what? Comfort? Wasn’t that the oath you took?

I would have asked her if she’d been praying. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. The same is true of hospices. I bet she would have answered, `I pray all the time.’ There’s the problem. Prayer’s got two parts: you talk; then, you listen. I know. I get worried about a thing and pray without ceasing to the point that God can’t squeeze an answer in sideways.

Too much prayer can be a sign of weakening faith. We keep talking because we don’t quite believe.  Maybe she would have confessed – I’ve heard it many times before – that she was being punished by the cancer for her sins of early life. So you’ve sinned. So what? The Creator not only permits U-turns; He counts on them.

Yeah, that’s what I would have told her, if I had any talent at all for figuring out the real business of the day…

Look for Lucky’s books locally and on-line: The Oath of Hippocrates; The Cotillian; A Journey Long Delayed.

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  1. What a heart felt article Lucky. I do not know you, but after reading this piece I certainly would like to. How loving and caring you are and I had tears in my eyes long before the end. Thanks for sharing your feelings.

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