One year ago today, I ended a life I loved very much. I didn’t realize that was happening at the time – we rarely do, when such things happen.
I suffer from a congenital condition called pancreas divisum – or divided pancreas. Put simply, most people have one pancreas – I have two. That’s a vast oversimplification, but it serves. And for most people that have the condition, it really is no big deal – they never hear from it. Some get a pancreatitis episode or two during their lifetime. I’ve been lucky enough to have many, and it has really affected my life.
“Lucky?” Am I being sarcastic? Well, I admit, I am a sarcastic person, and that is part of it. But it is deeper than that. The condition has shown me so very much about life that I would never have seen otherwise: about medicine; about people; about faith. About love. When I decided to be a doctor, I wanted to be the doctor that cared, the one who made a difference – who really made a difference, who went that extra mile. The one you wanted by your child, and by your family when your time came. I wanted to be by your bedside, holding your hand and praying, caring, making the judgment calls, sometimes saving lives, sometimes not, but always caring. But being the patient taught me about caring and loving in ways that medical school never could have. I met fantastic physicians and poor ones; spectacular nurses and nurses who were simply clocking their time. I met patients with stories that were heartening – people who had really beaten odds – and stories that were heart-rending. There was a woman who had, because of race and financial status, been thought to be drug-addicted, and been left in horrifying pain in an emergency room for over twelve hours, unable to move because of a fractured limb. She couldn’t get to a restroom and ended up soiling herself, and when she finally tried to help herself, she was called to the carpet by the very medical personnel who were there to care for her. I was fortunate that this woman opened up to me and shared her story with me when we were room-mates.
So when I say “lucky,” I really do mean it.
Thirteen months ago, I became ill and couldn’t leave work to care for the condition. I took a gamble that I could take care of it myself.
A month later, I came close to ending up in the ICU, and that was the last day I worked – or will ever likely work – as a physician.
Was it a mistake? I don’t think so. I don’t believe in such things. I am a spiritual person; I happen to be a Christian, and furthermore, a Christian who believes primarily that God is Love. But don’t mistake me; unless you’ve spoken with me in great depth about my beliefs – and there are exceptionally few who have – you probably don’t know what that means to me. It doesn’t mean exclusion, and it doesn’t mean lecture; it means love. Only that. So I’ll tell you a secret. For me, that day was a birth. It was a death of one kind, but a birth of another, and for me, God meant that my time working in that particular arena was complete – He simply had something else for me to do. Do I understand? Nope. But I’m okay with that. I go where He asks.
In September, I began writing, and that’s what I’m doing today. I’m hoping that what I write will encourage people a little bit, every day, to love one another – for to me, that is what God put me here for. Not to criticize, but to love. I think that God has lots of room for love.
I do miss working with patients; I miss the ego-stroking of being a doctor. But where God has put people, no matter where they may come from, I truly believe He has put room to love, so I don’t regret it too much.
And besides – it’s summer.
And summer is a great time to make lemonade.