Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Doctor Do-nothing

Sometimes it's not easy being a doctor ... especially when you're looking after a really sick person. Take this poor bugger I'm looking after at the moment. Firstly, it should be said, he's not frail or sickly, in fact, to look at him, you sometimes get the impression that he's eaten every pie in the shop! He's huge – certainly the biggest I've ever had to work with. And to say he's sick is not necessarily true either ... well, at least that is if you take the definition of sickness being something that can actually be cured, which in this case it can't.

Y'see, this outwardly robust, but internally corrupting fellow that I'm managing at the moment is more disabled than sick. He's got a couple of appendages which are so debilitated that there's just no way they're curable as they are. In fact, these appendages are so damaged and decaying from within, that they're threatening to spread into the other, healthier parts of his frame, and he and everyone around him are frightened, and rightly so, that they will eventually take the lot down with them.

It's really sad to see, I know. But that's the problem with being a really good doctor – people see how sad it is, and they want something done about it. What's more, you have a bit of success from time to time curing, or at least patching-up other people, and everyone wants you to turn your healing hands to more difficult jobs.

I used to wonder why it was that people held out so much hope for these poor wretches, given that you can see the disfigurement already taking hold of their withered, dying limbs, but I've come to understand that these outsiders, very often with their own corruptions and ailments, see the potential in the rest of the person's body; its health and vitality providing an optimistic contrast with the putrid bloating of the offending limbs. I guess it gives them hope; a hope with which they turn to people like me.

But what everyone, sufferer and onlooker alike, fails to understand, perhaps deliberately, fearfully, is that these afflictions are a form of corruption, and like any decay, will continue if unchecked, until there is no vital flesh remaining. It's those with similar ailments who want people like me to make a difference.

But what they don't want to know about is the truth. What they don't want to hear is that, like this poor soul who I'm working with here, the only way he's ever going to get better is to cut off the putrid limbs. To let them fall, and allow the healthy to remain so. Removing the damaged limbs will mean life to the rest - that much is certain.

But this message fails to get through most of the time, because people just can’t get past their prejudices. It never ceases to amaze me how individuals with a serious disability; an ailment which renders one or a number of limbs completely useless, are so willing to go through extended agony and heart ache; how they are willing to risk their overall health, just to maintain the outward appearance of being whole – of having all their limbs in tact. They risk years of personal pain and torment, just to try to fool people into believing that they’re OK; to avoid becoming the focus of others’ pity. But really, with that useless, obviously non-functioning limb hanging off the side … who are they really kidding?

And what of that rotting limb, once it’s removed? What will happen to it? Of course, modern science and experience tells us that to sever the limb means it'll die, but what if it doesn't? What if severing the limb, and providing it with care and nurturing actually gives it a second chance? This is a theory that myself and a lot of learned colleagues are starting to explore.

The problem is that we're running out of time. The corruption that's been working away slowly at this poor bloke for years; a low-grade infection that simmers along, causing damage, sure, but at a rate that's manageable, has recently undergone a violent outburst in one appendage, and the heat and carnage of this more or less unprecedented outbreak is literally destroying whatever goodness, whatever promise is left in its ever-weakening structures.

While everyone looks on, placing their vain hopes in my ability to nurse him back to health, this poor, proud fool is dying, and with each day that we fail to act appropriately, anything useful left in the damaged appendage, anything we can work with in order to nurse it back to health, is also dying.

People in my line of work are the ones who have it tough. We're the ones with the facts. We know what's required to save lives; what's required to build futures for living beings. But it's hard. While the World looks-on, waiting and hoping, we watch people's futures slip away down the line. If I had it my way, I'd ask the World to let us cut off the ailing appendages, and to let us begin working with what we have.

To me it makes sense. Do nothing and watch two lives die, or act swiftly and decisively to save one life ... and maybe two. It’s time for us to make some decisions; to put our prejudices aside for the good of all, and to help convince this poor man to do what we have to in order to save what's left of his horribly disfigured, disabled appendage ... before it is lost forever.


sabrina said...

I feel your pain and frustration babe.

You and the missus are in my prayers

sabrina said...
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