Often one hears of, or reads about, nasty experiences dealing with people across the counter. Well in the last two days I have twice experienced just the opposite. That is I’ve had contacts where people have made my day! I am in a run of seeing doctors and having tests which isn’t always the most pleasant of experiences and being made to feel comfortable is great.
First up I had to see a specialist whom I had known during his early post-graduate training in a department where I was a senior. I saw him late in the afternoon on the day when he had just arrived back from his Christmas break and I’m sure was exhausted and just wanted to get off duty. But for the first half an hour we talked about the past, he obviously had in some way or other followed my path when I had returned to Ethiopia. He even knew that I had had a period of teaching French! Then he dealt with me in a most kind and professional way, explained his thinking and ordered several more investigations which he wanted performed. And at the end treated me pro bono!
Then this morning I had to go to the X-ray department and sort out a tangle of appointments. At the end of of last week they had declined to carry out a CT scan because of things from my past history. They had ordered other blood tests, the results of which I was carrying with me. I also had the request for the test which they had declined to do earlier and two new requests one of which I wanted added into the previous CT request and the other which was totally different. There were obvious advantages in combining the two different CT scans.
Approaching the desk when called we (my son and I) were met by a beautiful very young looking (that’s almost everyone these days) receptionist. She expected to just open the book and give me an appointment but it wasn’t that easy. She had never, I think, been faced by an old man who knew what he wanted and would, if possible, like his own way. It was not easy for her because they had to contact someone to read the results of the previously ordered tests; she had never dealt with a patient wanting to have two requests ordered by two different doctors rolled into one; then the third test couldn’t be done in their radiology unit and the barium needed for it is difficult to find. I think because of Australia-Chinese relationship at the moment it is hard to get. Then the possible alternative to be used as a contrast in the examination had to be approved by the surgeon ordering the test, and he could not be contacted as he was operating. She sought help from a senior, another young looking very pleasant lady, and together they worked on the problem for about 45 minutes.
Through it all she was calm, professional, friendly and nice to work with. Thus I have had two very pleasant contacts in two days. Now I remain hopeful that the tests will be as comfortable and that the results are decisive and nice! I don’t know her and maybe we’ll never meet again, but she made my day! I was very happy to tell her so.
I guess that anyone with expertise in a certain area unconsciously, or maybe consciously, wonders how they would have handled what they’re looking at or what they would have said when they are listening to a talk on a subject about which they know a fair bit. the other day, I as a lay preacher, was talking to two ministers who had been in the audience where I had just preached. One of them said that he had wondered how he would have handled the topic. And he may well have done it better but was too gracious to say so!
I was a specialist surgeon and the GP before whom I was sitting was one of my interns years ago. I wonder how he felt! When I see him, before speaking he often asks what I think, not because he’s not in charge but in deference to our past. And obviously he knows that as hard as I try not to self diagnose I have already thought about what is going on. And I know that he doesn’t want to take our conversation to all the possibilities as to what the diagnosis may be, or to where investigations and treatment may lead us. I felt sorry for him as he (we) worked on a plan as where we would go to sort things out.
I wondered what I would have said and what he was going to say, as I knew that he and I were thinking parallel thoughts. So, and I think he handled it well, he said ‘you know that is usually a significant symptom.’ Still there are exceptions!
Now to await the specialist visits and the test results!
I have been told that there is a tribe in South America which has 40 words to differentiate shades of what we might, in a single word, describe simply as ‘green’. And in a country without sign posts they use these shade words to direct people on forest paths. For example travel on the path for …. (distance) until you see a tree of …. (shade of green) then turn left. in about …. (distance) you will see a bush of …. (shade of green) there turn right. etc – you get the idea. No doubt this has worked well for centuries and still does, but what a mess a traveller would be in if someone purposefully substituted the word for a different shade of green.
I looked up ‘shades of green’ on google search and the list is long and interesting. Usually just saying green is enough but sometimes we need to be more specific. And this applies to many other words. And we can get into or cause trouble by unintentionally or intentionally using a shade of meaning which the speaker or author didn’t intend. There are about a million words in the English language but I am told that the average word usage of the common person is only in the thousands – 10 to 20,000. I looked up the word ‘guilty’ in google search. This is part of what I read…
culpable of or responsible for a specified wrongdoing.”he was found guilty of manslaughter” Similar: culpable, to blame, blameworthy, blameable, at fault, in the wrong, responsible, answerable, accountable, liable, censurable, reproachable, condemnable, reprehensible, erring, errant, delinquent, offendings, felonious, iniquitous, criminal, convicted, peccant
justly chargeable with a particular fault or error.”she was guilty of a serious error of judgement”
conscious of, affected by, or revealing a feeling of guilt.”he felt guilty about the way he had treated her “Similar: ashamed, guilt-ridden, conscience-stricken, remorseful, sorry, regretful, contrite, repentant, penitent, rueful, abashed, shamefaced, sheepish, hangdog, mortified, discomfited, distressed, uncomfortable, in sackcloth and ashes, compunctious. Opposite:unrepentant
Let us say that the little baby pictured above died. That is not true, he did very well after his emergency surgery. He recovered quickly and was sent home well, but with a lot of growing up to do. But picture this scenario: –
He came in with an obstructed gut. He was operated upon and the condition corrected. On being woken up from his anaesthetic he vomited, inhaled his vomitus, but after that treated well according to the book but over the next 24 hours dies. A distraught parent accuses me of killing the baby and says that they hope I feel well and truly ‘guilty’. Should I feel guilty? I had made the correct diagnosis and done the right operation. My name was still on the end of the bed as the responsible surgeon. I had seen him and ordered several things post operatively. I was not the anaesthetist. Measures should have been taken by the anaesthetist to reduce the risk of him vomiting to a minimum, which he did not take. But I was by then in a side room writing up the case record. The mistake having been made I raced back into the operating room and did all I could to correct the situation.
But that accusation is that I have killed him and should feel guilty. I don’t think that it is fair to say that I have killed him, even if in a court the lawyers would have tried hard to push that all the responsibility of the anaesthetist fell back on me as the team leader so….? Now coming to the guilty word I have to confess that maybe I should feel guilty. I’ve seen that anaesthetist make similar mistakes before and because it was after midnight and I was tired I chose to do what was legal but maybe not wise i.e. do the rest of my legal paperwork and hopefully get home to bed. I had previously spent time on several occasions explaining the right way and watched him through several operations. I had since then stayed in the room on several occasions making sure that he did the waking up procedure correctly. But he was still relatively inexperienced. Because of the hour should we have waited until the morning, accepting that he may have died overnight and would certainly have been medically worse by the next day. If everyone had rested he might have lived and grown up to be a healthy man.
Would that label me guilty? I understand why the parents did, and I have to struggle hard to say that I bear no guilt. But I reject that I should feel guilty of murdering him or even of having done the wrong thing. Surely there must be a synonym in there for my feelings at this moment. Blameable? – but surely it is not my responsibility to do someone else’s work correctly. Ashamed? – because in the world there is such inequity between what we have in my home country cf my adopted land. Remorseful? – that I didn’t stay in the operating room until the child was wide awake. But then I knew that the post-op care workers often slept on their duty time – so should I have watched him overnight? Am I to bear the whole weight of the medical inadequacies on my shoulders.
Often when I use a word I have to depend on my reader/hearer to discern the context into which I am using it. It is not easy for the user or the recipient of a word to be sure of the correct meaning and I guess we have to settle for being honest, generous and understanding in our assessments.
I get email and posts which seem to stress that I ought to feel guilty about all sorts of things. I ought to feel guilty because of my racism; I ought to feel guilty because Australia doesn’t do enough for displaced people; I ought to feel guilty for my part in climate change; I ought to feel guilty because of ?????? And so it goes on. And many of them indicate clearly how I can give my money to them and they will make it good!
Well, I’m sorry I refuse to wear it. Have I lived the perfect life? The answer is obvious and I don’t deny it – I have fallen far short of perfection. But it seems to me that trying to pile straw (guilt) on the camel’s back (mine) will break it. I must live straight in the present and into what future remains to me.
I cannot be blamed nor do I need to feel guilty for what my forebears, close or distant, have done in the past. I refuse to accept others’ rubbish dumped onto the front yard of my life. I cannot be blamed for wrong decisions made by others whose responsibility it was to deal with that/those situations. I cannot go back and undo one thing that I have messed up in the past. Sure I can deal with honesty and integrity with the end results of my actions but a word spoken cannot be unspoken; a deed done cannot be undid!
If there is no God (before whom I may well have responsibilities and guilt) I cannot see how I can feel guilty before a vague concept of evolution, or before a political ideal most (all) of which seem corrupt in themselves. If there is a God then I should see if He has anything to say about the responsibility/guilt/forgiveness/what-next issues. And if there is a real ‘God’ then I cannot redraw Him to suit my personal wants. If there is no God, then finding a standard by which to self-judge or condemn others is difficult. Do I do what seems right in my own eyes and then be faced with the dilemma – should I expect others to agree with what I’ve decided? – or does everyone have the right to judge right-wrong issues for themselves? Can I ‘pass the buck’ and blindly obey those who are ‘in power’ to make the rules? Can those rules then be changed, and if so are there any rules for making changes?
I’m one of the lucky ones. I believe in the God of the Bible and God therein makes amazing and gracious deals on our behalf. I can confess (but no pulling the wool over God’s eyes) and be forgiven and then be given the instructions of what to do. God does not forgive you to free you just to do what you want to do. There are instructions as to how to live. Not that it makes everything easy to either understand or do. Important are – stewardship for the earth on which we live; treating our fellow beings in the way we want to be treated ourselves; fair dealing in business; the need to steer clear of the many ways that people and businesses try to lead us into shonky deals.
And none of us can solve or even be involved in all the problem areas. Taxation needs to be equitable, without all the loopholes now available to be bought. To honestly paint the whole picture causing the various problems and not to just highlight (often the fashionable) one of many issues involved. We will have to be prepared to lower our personal expectations concerning wages, pensions, living standards if we want to raise the standards of the poor and of the developing world. I can’t tour around the world, talking about the main cause of climate change being man-made problems, in a private luxury jet, staying at top hotels, being paid a CEO wage and not expect to be quizzed on my life style. I think you can see where I’m heading, express an opinion if you desire.
The picture below is the one on the front of my autobiography. It was taken in the mid 90’s in Soddo, Ethiopia. I developed a fairly close relationship with the boy who is walking with me. He was deaf and dumb. There was a blind school nearby but he wasn’t blind. There wasn’t anywhere near to help him. In my early days there before we got a vehicle, I often walked past his home going between our home and the hospital. If only I hadn’t had an already heavy schedule…. but had the chance to meet the family and know more about him. I got to hear his story from the workers and did my best to be a friend to this little guy isolated in an overpopulated area inside his silent world. So we’d walk together sharing a chocolate bar, pointing out things that interested us, but sadly absolute silence. If only we’d known ‘signing’ …. Our home was about a kilometre beyond his and when I was walking home he’d walk with me but then after a while suddenly break off and run home to his area of safety.
Then we bought an old 4WD and as I drove past he would climb up on my knee and steer for maybe half a kilometre before tapping my arm to stop, hop out and run home. I think that either his playmates indicated that I was coming or he, being deaf and dumb, appreciated the vibrations from the car transmitted through his feet. At any rate it was rare for me not to see him coming to the side of the road, waiting for me as I drove past. When we left Soddo one of the saddest things was leaving him. He did not have an intelligence problem, and hopefully as things progress medically in the land, he will get help. If only I’d been able to find an appropriate school…
I did meet him again several years later when I visited the Soddo area again. He ran up to me with a very broad smile but scratching himself all over. He was covered with scabies. The diagnosis was easy and the treatment relatively cheap, but not all that easy, as it involved bathing and washing clothes. Having worked there just a few years earlier I quickly worked out how much to get him seen, and medicine ordered, then added a little for inflation and gave it to one of the hospital staff to sort out. I was told that after I had left the pharmacy had been privatised and costs adjusted (in)appropriately. Thus the money which I was offering was now insufficient to even get him a card to be seen. I added more, but had to leave and am not sure who prospered from my money, the boy or the one sent on an errand. If only I’d been able to stay and look after him myself….
Life has so many ‘if only‘ situations. You’d go mad if you held onto them too tightly.