Tuesday, April 4, 2017

more than meets the eye

I called my best friend last night. We don’t get to see one another very often, but we talk every week. After we catch up on all the things that keep us busy, the conversation turns to friends and family.
Here are a couple of the stories we shared this week:
·        My friend described the plight of a woman who has undergone eight operations in a futile effort to eliminate a recurring MRSA infection post-total knee replacement.
·        She expressed her concern for a neighbor in her seventies who took a tumble and broke her hip, and then, a few weeks later, fell again and suffered a subdural.
·       We discussed the story of a woman from her church who is losing her battle against metastatic breast ca.
·        I told her that a friend of my daughter’s, recently married, had suffered a miscarriage over the weekend.
…not one happy moment among them.
The thing is that these occurrences are not uncommon. We encounter them every day. In fact, stories like these are so commonplace we are tempted to dismiss their gravity and to overlook the emotional devastation that remains in their aftermath.
“Under the look of fatigue,
the attack of migraine, and the sigh
there is always another story.
There is more than meets the eye.”
~W H Auden~
But what if we knew those details? Are we interested, empathetic, compassionate or simply curious enough to ask? Is there more to the story?
·       The woman with the recurring MRSA will be going off IV antibiotics in a week or two. Every time she does, the infection recurs…seven times, so far. If it happens this time, she will be staring down the barrel at an amputation…
·        Several months earlier, the neighbor who fell and her elderly husband became foster parents to their grandson who was 9 months old at the time…
·       The woman with the metastatic breast cancer had entered hospice care. The question that arose for my friend was whether or not it was too late to give her a call. What could she possibly say?
·       The young woman, who under her doctor’s direction miscarried at home, described herself as feeling like a “monster” for having to flush her baby down the toilet.
There is always more to a story than first meets the eye. It pays to go deeper. To draw out the most painful details. How else will we know what a person needs? How to help? What to say?
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle
You know nothing about.
Be Kind.
~various attributions~
Last night I spent an hour on the phone with another a friend whose autobiography should be titled, “Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will…” Her story is one of multiple oversights, erroneous assumptions, and mistreatment during a recent hospitalization that would give Stephen King nightmares, I kid you not. Untreated hypertension and untreated pain complicated by complacent nursing care. Today, she thanked me just for listening.
It turns out that narrative medicine is alive and well in every community, in every neighborhood and around every kitchen table. What is your story?
“Tell me your story,
show me your wounds,
and I’ll show you what Love sees
when Love looks at you.
Hand me the pieces,
broken and bruised,
and I’ll show you what Love sees
when Love sees you.”
~from “When Love Sees You”~
~lyrics by Mac Powell~



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