29 August 2010

Damsel in Distress

Yep. Really. So…I did something really stupid. In a parking lot, after most of the other cars were gone. Instead of backing out of the space, I decided to go forward, because, hey, there’s no one else there, and why not. The front wheels hit something, started to go over it. (Well, crap). Probably another one of those little divider things in parking lots. I’ve done that before… not good…but ohwell. I keep going. And somehow, the front of the car feels higher up. And somehow, I’m stuck. The wheels are spinning, spinning, revving, I can see clouds of dust in front of me…. what the *&*&(*&^?

I get out. And. Rather than the little elongated rectangular thing I’d been picturing, it’s a sort of tree planter, diamond-shaped, probably close to a foot off the ground. Filled with sand. And, oh yeah, a tree trunk. I’m on top of it.(TO MY CREDIT. Every other such sporadic “décor” planter thing in the parking lot has a very large tree in it. Large tree. As in, in your face tree. This is the only one that doesn’t. (I look around for a wild few seconds, wondering…did I knock over a tree?”
Okay, that one’s obvious. But as to what to do next…

I didn't know what to do. After a half-hearted shove at the front bumper (yeah, right), I stood back, looking around, prepared to take another moment of * I can't believe I *&^*& did this * and then get out my insurance card and call. What else? An older gentleman, in a suit, walked from the office building to his car. He saw me, came over, and immediately looked for implements to help. I was still in disbelief-at-self mode. "Don't be upset!" he said. "I'll go get more men to help me." Key on the "men." And it's true. He found a colleague, then a third, also leaving his office at the end of the day, came to help. I realized, at some point, that they actually enjoyed this. That this perhaps was gratifying to them, as well, in doing something I had no idea how to do and could not do by myself (neither could any of them, though).The small saving grace is that the last push, which got the car, undamaged, back onto solid ground, included
me. It would have gone without me, in any case, or one of them would have leaned in more.

I may understand the concept of front-wheel drive a little bit, now, after having watched my wheels spin mercilessly and haplessly in the sand. (first introduction to the concept: "My Cousin Vinny." years ago). I don't want to be helpless in any area.
I was proud of myself when I bought brake fluid, for gods' sake. And then windshield wipers, which I changed myself after a few youtube checks. And a few more.Three times now, with
the license plates. I haven't had to change a tire (* knocks on kitchen table*), but, since I did once, successfully, with my mother when I was 14... I'm not too worried about that.

Until it seemed that the jack was bolted into my trunk, tonight. (Somehow, my 6pm saviors got it
out). Physicians can pathologize anything. Psychiatrists can pathologize any emotion, worry, stress, strain, personality quirk. They say - and maybe this is true - that those of us who choose
to be doctors do it because, this way, we think we'll never die. That if we know about bodies, things that can happen, if we can fix them for other people, we are invincible. I neither think I'm
invincible nor do I think I can fix anyone. Surgeons do that on occasion. Physicians do too, on
occasion. And mostly, we manage, try to make things a little better, slow down the course, try not to make things worse, and be there for the patient.

If I took my car into the mechanic (...which I probably should...), I give it unto their hands. I can't diagnose this. And I can be suspicious I'm being overcharged, sure, I can try to get a second opinion, but otherwise, I am clueless. I could learn if I wanted to. There are books, there are other things. It's just not a way I want to spend my time - and thus - I become more helpless and more dependent. Some people are like that with doctors. The invincible ones in the white coats. Your life, sorta, sometimes, in their hands, or at least giving you chemicals to put in your body and promising this will help, or might, or that these numbers on a little slip representing your blood mean this or that. This is wrong with you. This isn’t. This we can fix. This we can’t.
You trust. The little organ donor sticker on your license means you give doctors permission to declare you brain dead. That there is nothing left in you that can be resuscitated, that if they took you off the ventilator and maybe the dialysis machine and whatever else – or nothing – you would die. Quite simply. There is no hope for you anymore, your family will cry and sign papers, they’ll look at your driver’s license and refute it. Or hopefully not. (that’s what you thought when you signed up for the sticker, anyway). Doctors will take them into a quiet room to tell them. They’ll be allowed some moments while all of your information, the physical make-up of what used to be you (whatever you believe) is put into the computer system and UNOS will scroll across the entire country to find people sick, waiting in hospitals, at home, waiting, waiting to hear. And then you will be eviscerated. And you will save lives, so many lives, rather your body will save lives. Whatever you believe. And it is the most incredible gift. But you trust doctors for that, implicitly. Doctors pronounce death. Doctors sign life into being, that it’s * official *, that someone was actually born, on a certain day, a certain time, a certain place, and to whom. They don’t teach that, not exactly. The exam you do, yes. The steps, yes, the verification needed, yes, and what you say and how you say it to someone else. It’s supposed to come with the degree, with the license that we spend so many days over so many years to attain. There is unbelievable, incredible, humbling power in that. Even in talking, the absolute trust from patients, what they say that they may never have told anyone before. Becoming guardians of this. And trying to remember the humility, the sheer amazing-ness of it all, and how to – try to – never forget. Because everyone is human, and even in this, especially in this, there is the capacity to make mistakes.


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