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December 23, 2011 at 7:29 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Of Disney, Surgery and the Emergency Room

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Last year I surprised my eight year old boy for his birthday with a father-son visit to Disney World, The Magic Kingdom. It was a big deal. When we arrived, it was the culmination of months of planning, contemplation and a good amount of money.

One of the climax points of the trip was the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. As per protocol, we took our place in cue for the estimated 90 minute wait. As we patiently (and at times impatiently) waited, the anticipation built until we finally got to the front of the line to climb aboard the gondola and the excitement was at fever pitch.

At that moment I noticed the young man who would be putting us into our vessel for this very special moment in our lives. I was struck by his mundane demeanor as he recited the rules in a monotonous tone and pulled the lever...."next." My son continued to experience the magic, but that moment left me contemplative - while to us, this moment would become a treasured memory, to him, it couldn't be more routine.

As I write this, you see, I am recovering from a "minor surgical procedure."

And prior, I had worked myself up to quite a nervous state in facing this health hurdle. My body was put under the knife, trusting it to careful hands. Things went well and I drove home looking forward to hitting the couch. But while driving home, my wife called panicked and en route to the emergency room. Our infant daughter had fallen from her highchair, striking her head on the floor.

In a day, doctor becomes patient.

I had felt the vulnerability of turning my body over to someone's care. I stood by the cat scanner helpless as my daughter's brain was imaged, looking for something bad. I hung on the doctor's words as findings and test results were revealed.

I was in that cue again waiting on something very important and intimate to me.

Fortunately, the care was excellent and all the results are good.

Reflecting, I realize that it is important to put things into perspective.

As I fretted to my wife about my surgery she reasoned, "You are a doctor, you cut people every day."

True, though that day, the shoe was on the other foot.

How many times have I been the doctor as compared to the patient role? Do I treat my patients as I would hope to be treated?

People call my office every day with important needs. I communicate my findings and their test results after they have patiently waited for an appointment and endured the poking and prodding that is typical of medical care. Often they are hurting or sick.

This is a big deal to them. There is an invariable charge to treat them with the care I would myself would expect to receive.

In which situations do you find yourself pulling the lever for the ride?

Are you a waitress who serves people out on a special date? Are you a mechanic taking care of peoples' car crises? As a parent, you are there for those important, impacting, memorable times in your childrens' lives. Perhaps you do run a ride at Disney.

Regardless, do you approach these situations with monotony and indifference? Or, do you make the difference in peoples' lives - effective, potent and caring?

I challenge you to examine the effect you have on others in their important times. Remember how you felt bottling those emotions in order to never, never forget. Be ever-mindful of the "Disney ride principal" and bring your magic to those around you!

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1 Comment

  • My wife and I spent several years working at veterinary offices while schooling as vet techs. How many animals we saw who were beyond the point of hope or their owner's purses, I cannot bring myself to enumerate anymore. What I do know is that the veterinarians and technicians I admired the most were the ones who took it personally, the ones who held the patient consolingly in the end and meant it.

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