October 22, 2013

the straw that broke Atlas

     I've wrestled with this before.  Don't play doctor.  Be the brother, the son, the dad, the whatever but don't be the doctor.  In a more perfect world, I could gladly cast off that role.  But when faced with these notions of "if things went better..." I like to quote from Grumpy Old Men, "you can wish in one hand and shit in the other.  Let me know which one fills up first."
     And so I keep justifying it to myself, keep trying to make it right, keep damning that I am put into this role, time and time again.




     I could not save my brother but he did die in far, far less pain because I was not just a brother.  Given my dad's situation, he may have very well died (it's a long story) if I had just been just a son.  And my son?  The story is still being written but my wife recognizes that he likely would have completed suicide if I had been just a dad. It's a foregone conclusion in her mind.  Despite all this, a fresh passage in the pages of my son's story are troubling me.
     My son needed a blood draw.  At least I thought he needed a blood draw and the doctor agreed but wanted a fasted one.  As we entered the LabCorp office, I double checked the orders.  A few tests were missing.  But the doctor did want these tests run.  I tried calling the doctor.  No luck.  My son starts to notice my hesitation.  My conflict.  He asks me, "what's wrong," sounding nervous as his paranoia is never far from the surface.
     "There are some tests left off that need to be run," I reply.
     "Just check them off then.  You're a doctor," he replies laconically.  Issue settled in his mind.  But not mine.
      I've been told, "don't be his doctor. Be his dad."  And besides, it's not my signature at the bottom of these orders.  But if I don't "play doctor" as I have done hundreds of times in the past, my son will get inferior care.  So I check off the boxes.  The correct ones as I do not guess.  I know.  I relay a message to the doctor letting them know what I did.  "No problem" was the reply.
     In all honesty, compared to all the other doctor things I've done with my family, this is really was "no problem".  A clerical error, really.  But I've been told so many, many, many times to create a chasm between being the loved one and the doctor.  And this small episode proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back.  On some level, I am angry at the people who tell me to just be the loved one.  But on a deeper level, I am furious at the universe, at God, at the situations that keep putting me in this role and forcing a choice.  Once, it happens.  Twice, and at the same time, well that's getting to be a bit much.  But three times?  In three years?  Is there any mercy or grace in this world at all?  Or, am I being punished as I wait for the fourth, or even fifth shoe to drop?  Am I cursed to play Atlas the rest of my life?


ZARZAND said...

Not cursed. Not by life, or God. Just suffering the fall out of being a human.

In the span of a little over two years, one of my sons, my husband, my life long and closest friend ( not speaking of my husband by saying that), my pastor and also the one person who had mentored me through most of my life's hardest lessons all passed away. One expected, the other's not.

In the three years that followed, i held more than one person in my arms who took their life, as they slipped away. Two others from illness.

My heart wanted to grow hard. It absolutely felt like it was breaking.

Now, nine years later, I have been blessed to adopt 3 more kids, that I never expected. Siblings who came home to kids my husband and I had already adopted while he was still alive. --- I have started a company meant to give encouragement and resources to those who have stood in shoes similar to mine. And the ones you are now wearing. And I hear daily how much it's changing lives.

It doesn't change the bite of the losses. Nor the scars left by them. There are days I still find myself in mourning heavier than others. But LIFE will move you forward, and you will find ways to reach out to those around you, whether you know them or not, because THAT'S who you are. No matter how hard you're grieving and imploding right now, just as you'll say to your son as he's looking at things, TOMORROW will come and it's worth being there for it, and ready to see what more there is for you.


Steve Parker, M.D. said...

Life will get better for you. Don't give up or give in.

You did the right things by stepping out of the supportive bystander role when your relatives needed your expertise. There are lots of impersonal screw-ups in the delivery of medical care. You had the intelligence and training to recognize some of them.

Remember to nurture your relationship with your wife.


Isaac van Sligtenhorst said...

Thanks. With my brother I stepped wwwaaayyy outside that role but I obviously never blogged it as I'd like to become a full doctor one day.

Isaac van Sligtenhorst said...

That is indeed way more suffering than anybody should have to endure...but we don't get to make those rules.