A doctor going to the doctor.

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!

Dominic Cartier

Meanings of words

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 wonder how many shades of green are in this area of Ethiopian countryside?

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…

guilty/ˈɡɪlti/ Learn to pronounce adjective

  1. 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
  2. Opposite:innocent.
    • 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.

Auguste Rodin | The Thinker (Le Penseur) | French | The Metropolitan Museum  of Art

Dominic Cartier

Christmas is here!

We have a new Ethiopian restaurant in town. It’s owners have a different religion and don’t recognize Christmas. They believe in an historical Jesus but not in the Christ which Christ-mas celebrates. So a passing thought that I had of hiring a table and inviting a few friends there after Christmas Day church service to celebrate together came to nothing.

Christmas is for children. I was reading the other day where someone said Christmas doesn’t mean much to the writer any more since the kids left and ‘it’ is really for kids. Really? Do you want to talk to your kids about virgin births? Do you want to discuss with them the concept of the Infinite God causing a young virgin to have a child, so that, He can become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world? Do you think they will be unable to understand the concept of the Incarnation?

And, at any rate, as a society, we’ve gone beyond believing those mythological concepts and it really is just a good excuse for a holiday. Besides if we allow carols and manger scenes, we might offend someone else of a different religion. Isn’t the aim of tolerance to make it so that I must not present my way as the truth. Since, all our opinions are of equal value and we must seek to avoid issues which cause contention?

Well, speaking for myself, I believe that the birth of Jesus, His Incarnation, is a keystone in history! When we acknowledge that history is a record of HIS-story. It is a time for kids and present giving – because God gave the first big present – His son to live among us. Here is something that even the youngest is able to learn – To say ‘Thankyou!” Also, there are things that stretch the wisest and most informed minds as we wrestle with the ‘reality’ of a world, of which, we can not see all. I love the carols, the Bible Readings, the celebration, the Joy. From my point of view ‘bring it on’ – I know that I need to hear the story again, kids need to hear the story frequently and the world definitely needs to hear the story. If we want to give up anything about Christmas, try replacing commercialization with the real story of that night and, in its place, centre on the baby. The real centre of Christmas who is being drowned out by the ‘hoo-haa’. The ‘hoo-haa’ which is meant to be an acceptable substitute for the real cause that there is in the season for us to celebrate.


Dominic Cartier.

Guilt – real or unreal?

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.

Merry Christmas, Dominic Cartier

Please -Forgive the Absence!

I’ve been remiss lately hardly even opening up my blogs. And I want to say why.

I haven’t even had time to comb my hair!

There has been the pressure of meeting the deadlines for publishing my two ebooks. At last they are in the publishers’ hands and due to open for sales in the next few days. They are published through Smashwords.com. They are – ‘Have Scalpel will Travel – memoirs of an older surgeon – revised and updated’ & ‘Medical Diagnostics a Surgical Approach’. The second is definitely medical with pictures.

Then we are not quite prepared for our pregnant ewes to lamb and have a shed and yards to complete in the next few days.

There was a granddaughter’s wedding to attend about 1,500 km away. We drove but whereas once we could do it in a long day it now takes three days. So we were away a week.

We got a broken car window and with all the bits they add into the glass these days it meant a wait of several weeks for the correct glass to be found and a second trip to have the bits tuned up. Now it is much better than looking through cracks!

Then in the last couple of weeks I’ve had a preaching appointment on zoom to India and Ethiopia, another at a church whose minister has just resigned and this weekend in our own church. Our church has a new man arriving in January, we having been without a Minister for a while.

The house restoration is looking good, but the place needs painting! So all I can say is please forgive my tardiness!

Dominic Cartier