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Clean Lenses

I can remember working a shift that ended at 11:00PM.  One of my last patients was a young lady in her thirties. Per the nurse’s notes in the chart, she had come to the ER secondary to complaints of chronic abdominal pain and constipation. After reading that, a barrage of thoughts flooded my brain.  “Did this patient come here just to receive narcotic pain medications?” “Is she lying about her pain?” “It’s almost the end of my shift, why did she come here so late at night with a complaint of constipation?”

Almost immediately, my perception of her was distorted. I already had thoughts about the type of person she was when I had not yet exchanged a single word with her. I was seeing her through cloudy lenses.

However, I decided to approach her as I do every patient–with kindness and an open mind. I spoke with her at length and learned a bit about her.  It turned out that she was a genuinely warmhearted individual who was going through some difficult times.  I tried to figure out what would be the best way to help her. She actually declined any offer of pain medications.  All of my initial perceptions were incorrect.

We all encounter people in a host of different locations and situations. So often it is easy to prejudge other individuals without ever giving them an opportunity to express who they are, what they are feeling or what kind of day they are having.  Have you ever had the experience of interacting with an unpleasant and impatient cashier at the checkout counter of your local supermarket?  I would propose that instead of acting in a similar fashion, you look at that individual through clean lenses.  After all, perhaps he has a sick child at home, maybe his car just broke down, or perhaps he doesn’t have enough money to buy dinner for his family. Or perhaps he is just grumpy all the time.  In either case, a little kindness on your part can go a long way to brighten that person’s day.

Thus, before you venture out into the world each day, please be sure to clean off your lenses.

Perspective

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We typically make decisions and take action based upon the things that we know-upon how we understand the circumstances that surround us.  Many times our conclusions are correct and our behaviors are appropriate. However, I’m fairly certain that on numerous occasions our assumptions are mistaken and thus our conduct will reflect this. I can definitely say that this is true of myself.

The manner in which we see a situation is our perspective. The eye of a hurricane looks and feels quite a bit different than other parts of the storm. Perspective. As a practitioner of medicine, I have an entirely different perspective than a layperson. A person who suddenly has the onset of severe abdominal pain will likely have a different meaning for me than for, let’s say-an astrophysicist. It would be like I am on an entirely different level of understanding with regards to the situation.  Similarly, if there was some enormous cosmic event that was going to impact our Earth, the converse would hold true. The astrophysicist would have an understanding that I could probably not even fathom.

I have two dogs- a yellow Labrador and a miniature poodle. Until a few months ago, I thought that I knew a lot about owning and raising dogs. Not so. Our Labrador was beginning to display behavioral issues that we were concerned about. I didn’t know what to do. Around that time, I happened to come across a copy of “Cesar’s way”, by Cesar Millan. Mr. Millan taught me an entirely different way to view canine behavior.  I learned how dogs see the world, and it is a lot different than I had once thought. I gained a new perspective, and it has helped immensely. (As an aside-prior to the behavioral issues, my wife had watched some episodes of Cesar’s television show and had mentioned some of his ideas to me. Of course, I didn’t listen at the time. She was right 🙂 – I should have listened.

Thus, proper perspective is essential.  It can help in all life situations. It can be especially valuable in difficult circumstances. When these circumstances arise, take a step back and ask yourself if there is any other way to look at things. Seek advice.  Read an article or book. Many times the perspective of others can be a wonderful gift, helping to provide the enlightenment needed to assist us in solving many of life’s most challenging quandaries.

 

Inspiration from Tomatoes

Tomato Top of White Ceramic Plate

Early in the summer I started my vegetable garden.  I pulled up the weeds that had grown in the spring and put in fresh soil. I planted a few different vegetables, including tomatoes.  I had purchased them as small plants. They seemed so small and delicate-no more than six inches tall. Over the ensuing weeks I tended to them regularly. I ensured that they were adequately watered, and secured them to posts to assure they would be well supported.

Yesterday as I admired the garden, something struck a chord within. I noticed just how much my tomato plants had grown. I had recognized this every time I cared for the garden.  But yesterday I really understood it. They are at least two feet tall-very green and lush.  They are so big that their leaves are overhanging the wooden planters. I even saw a small tomato here and there.  They are truly majestic.

As I marveled at my garden, the concept that I became aware of is that the plants are supposed to grow. I know it sounds obvious, but bear with me. The young seedlings were meant to develop and flourish. All that potential was in the tiny seeds from which they originated. They were destined to become magnificent wonders of nature.

The same is true for all creatures. Every living thing on this planet was brought into existence to rise to its full potential. Think about it–have you ever seen a mature six inch tall oak tree?  We too were created to rise to our highest. We were all given special gifts and talents. We were meant to use and develop them.  We are not supposed to keep inside that which eagerly desires to be released. We should be using our gifts to create, serve and be of benefit to humankind and this planet.

It’s amazing how much one can learn from a tomato.

 

 

 

 

Heart Attack

A forty four year old male came into the Emergency Department complaining of chest pain. He described it as feeling like somebody was standing on his chest, and it had been going on for an hour.  He also reported feeling sweaty and was nauseous. An EKG was performed and it revealed the terrifying reason for his symptoms-he was having a heart attack.

A heart attack.

This forty four year old man with a wife and two children was having a heart attack.  Unfortunately, everybody who works in an Emergency Department has seen this patient.  So in the ER, we do what we do best-we are part of a team that helps save lives.  Within twenty minutes-this patient will have IVs and will have received several different medications to prevent the heart attack from getting bigger. Very soon after that, he will be taken to the cardiac catheterization lab where they will open up the clogged blood vessel and place a stent to keep it patent. He will then be started on medicines to keep his blood “thin”.  This man has been fixed.

He has survived his heart attack, and given a second chance to continue his life and be with his family. The good that can be done by practitioners of modern medicine is nothing short of miraculous. It is a truly amazing thing to witness and also to be a part of.

Sometimes when I think about all of the incredible feats that medicine can accomplish I begin to wonder. The thing that I wonder about-is it always necessary? What I mean to say is-did this man really need to have a heart attack?  Was it at all possible that it could have been prevented?  Could a healthier lifestyle have staved off such a tragedy?

We may never know the answer for this particular gentleman.  In general, however, a healthier lifestyle can absolutely lower the risk of many diseases-heart attacks included. We all have control of our own destinies. We do not have to be at the mercy of our genetics-even if it seems as though bad genes run in our families.  We do have the capability to help keep ourselves well.

We have the power to keep our own arteries clean. My body is a beautiful gift-and I sometimes think of caring for myself as a magnificent responsibility. Perhaps we should keep this obligation for ourselves-and not give it away so often.

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Steps

 

No matter the goal you are trying to achieve-take it slow.  Whatever ultimate outcome you desire-break it up into smaller pieces.  There are a couple of good reasons to do so.  Oftentimes our goals may be large and challenging. This can be overwhelming.  So overwhelming, in fact, that it creates discouragement.  “This is too hard.  Why bother? I’m never going to be able to do this.”

However, turning a single large goal into many smaller ones will create a sense of achievement and reward after the accomplishment of each one.  This will enable one to build up momentum (remember that?) and remain motivated while moving onto the next smaller goal.

For instance, let’s say that your goal is to lose forty pounds. That’s your ultimate goal. It may seem a bit daunting.  But how about losing five pounds?  Or even three pounds?  Now, that’s not so bad, is it?  Set up these smaller goals and have a plan to achieve each one. With each goal accomplished, you will truly feel wonderful. And why not give yourself a small reward for each little goal you complete. It could be anything- a massage, a new outfit, a special night out, etc. You get the idea. That’s even more motivation.

So, let’s learn from those tiny infants.  When they’re trying to figure out how to walk, they don’t go straight from crawling to walking around the house. They stand and fall. Take a step and fall. Cruise.  Take a step on their own and fall. Two steps and fall. Three, four-fall down.  Then, suddenly they can walk across the room! And they did it in baby steps. Just as we should.

 

On Being Consistent

In my last post I wrote about the run that I really didn’t want to do. My legs felt so tired and all I could think about was stopping. But I kept going and built up momentum.  I ended up having a great run and feeling terrific afterwards!

When examining this more closely, it is clear that it all began with a choice. My choice.  It was my decision to keep my legs moving despite how fatigued I felt. I could have very easily chosen otherwise. I could have stopped. But I chose to keep going.  In life, everything about us ultimately comes down to our choices.

I wrote a recent post about choices.  At the risk of being redundant, I would like to discuss a bit further. This is because our choices are so important. There are two wonderful books that I would recommend for anyone who would like to read more on this topic. One is “The Slight Edge,” by Jeff Olson, and the other is “The Compound Effect,” by Darren Hardy. These books provide great descriptions of how consistent decisions affect our lives and our circumstances. Even those seemingly small decisions, when added up over time, can have enormous impacts in our lives.

The “added up over time” phrase is key.  Smoking a single cigarette won’t give anybody lung cancer. However, smoke a pack a day for twenty years, and your putting yourself at risk for very bad things.  Going to the gym one time will not get anybody into shape. However, go a few times a week, and over the course of several months there will be some positive changes noted.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about what’s been called the magic penny.  You know it-take a penny and double it every day. Doesn’t sound like it would amount to much. 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256, 512.  On day 10, all you would have is $5.12.  On day 20, you would have  $5242. Day 25-$167,772.  A nice chunk of change-but not rich.  But then, on day 30-$5,368,708. During the first 25 days, change occurred relatively slowly.  The last 5 days was really where most of the magic occurred.

So the moral is not just to make good choices, but to make good choices on a regular basis over time. If you do, you will see positive changes. They may seem small at first. But don’t get discouraged.  Stay patient and consistent. Enjoy the journey. The big breakthroughs may take longer to occur, but when they do it will have been well worth the effort.

Physics

 

I run a few times each week, and I can remember one day last week when I went out for a run.  Nothing out of the ordinary. However, for some reason it seemed extremely difficult. My legs felt so tired. I felt the burn of lactic acid build-up very early on.  With each stride, I felt like I wanted to stop.  Maybe I just was not in the mood to run.

However, I kept going.  I kept pushing through my desire to stop and the fatigue in my legs. I kept moving.  After a short while, I no longer felt tired.  It also didn’t seem to require as much energy to keep my legs moving. As a matter of fact, I was enjoying the feeling of my legs really pumping. My energy levels continued to soar, and there was a point during my run when it felt like I could continue for hours.  When it was over, I felt great!

That run reminded me of two facts I first learned way back when I was a student studying physics. First, inertia is the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest. Second, momentum (or impetus), is the tendency of a moving body to maintain its motion. I’ve also been reminded of these two lessons many times over while reading books on the subject of personal development. And like my run that day, I’ve been reminded of these truths many times over through my own personal experiences.

Many times when you’re not doing much, your inertia can make it difficult to start moving. It will take discipline and will power, but once you start moving you gain momentum. And the more you keep going, the more momentum you gain-which gets you going even more. It’s a wonderful upwards spiral.

This principle applies to any goal you have set for yourself- whether it is related to health, sports, fitness, education, career, finances or relationship. Momentum can help us do great things!

Back when I was in school, I can remember some of my fellow classmates saying that physics was boring.  If only they knew!

 

Gratitude

Speaking about choices-we are called upon to make so many choices every day. Some are big and others small.  However, there are some choices that we can make all the time.  Like the decision to be grateful.  No matter what our circumstances, we can always choose to be grateful for the abundance of wonderful things that we have in our lives. We can always give thanks for our families, friends, home, food, health, clothes, cars-for our very lives and people that we are.

I recently treated a patient who came to the Emergency Room with symptoms that he had never had, and they were concerning to him and his family.  After his evaluation, I was explaining his diagnosis when he said something that resonated with me.  “Well, maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” was a remark that gave me pause for a moment.  He was thankful that he had symptoms that brought him to medical attention early-possibly averting a catastrophic event in the future.

Looking for something to be grateful for is a powerful choice that can have a profoundly positive impact.

Choices

Yes, things can change.  Our individual and collective health can be better. And it all comes down to just one thing-our individual choices.  Sounds simple, yet it is magnificently powerful. I’ve read it over and over again and have seen it at work many times in my own life.  The choices we make every day will impact our lives.  And I’m not speaking about major life decisions, but rather the small seemingly unimportant choices that we make many times over throughout the course of each day.

These will affect every aspect of our lives-our relationships, finances, careers, and health. And depending on the choices made, over time the impact will be either positive or negative.  May we choose to make good choices.

It Can Be Better

I know there IS more.  I know it CAN be better. I’ve seen so much during my years as an Emergency Medicine physician.  As ER doctors, PAs, nurses and techs, we help the sick and injured. We save lives.  We help the worried well.  It can be so rewarding. It can also be sad.

The biggest part of “sad” is when you can’t help people, no matter how hard you try.  I do understand that matters are ultimately in God’s hands. For me, another part of “sad” is when I see so many people who are suffering from illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and emphysema. These people often have long medication lists and many times are relatively young. What I find to be so unfortunate is that many times this does not have to be so. Is this really true quality of life?  Can we do anything to make it better?  I KNOW WE CAN.