I've written before about the joy of practicing medicine. I truly am in awe of how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Not a day goes by that I don't scratch my head and say that the body amazes me more and more. Last week, however, I was inspired by the spirit of my patients. Let me walk you through my Friday.
Early in the morning I walked into see one of my long-standing patients who is an incredible athlete. From the first time I met this patient, I learned that he was a competitive rower. He competed nationally at his age level throughout the United States and around the world. His nationality is not American. And his love for rowing and racing was born in his home country. Over the years I've known him, I learned that he had compromised circulation in one of his legs due to a childhood bone tumor that was treated with radiation. After much coaxing, I encouraged him to establish a relationship with a vascular specialist in case that circulation ever became a problem. Two years ago, the blood supply to that patient's leg was compromised, and he required a below-the-knee amputation in an emergency situation. I wondered how this would affect his physical competitiveness. On Friday, I saw that the human spirit far overpowers a metal prosthesis. He pulled out a picture to show me an image of him surfing on a surfboard with his titanium leg. Then, he proudly announced that he was going to be competing again in the coming weeks at the same level he had competed prior to losing his leg. Finally, he shared with me that he had also received his running prosthesis, and he would be running his first 5K with in the next week. I was blown away!
A few patients later, I walked into see a 90-year-old patient that I have had the privilege to follow for just a few years. She lives an hour or so away but her family brings her here for her medical care. When I opened the exam room door, she was just beaming--rosy cheeks, impeccable make-up and dressed to the nines in a bright red ensemble. When I reviewed her medication list, it had a scant few medications. Blood pressure was perfect. Previous labs were reviewed, and they were perfect as well. At some point in the conversation, I asked if she had driven herself to Charlotte. She said no, but rather that her daughter had made the trip. However, she started talking about driving. I learned that she is still driving herself around her hometown in her 1984 Cadillac Seville. She told me she just had it washed, and it is in pristine condition with its red leather interior and white shiny paint. Out of curiosity, I asked her when was the last time she got her license. She thought about it a minute and said that she thought it was due in July on her 91st birthday. She did not think, however, she would worry about getting it renewed because no one would EVER stop her! She said she only went a few places . . . to the grocery store, to Walmart, to Kmart, and of course to Goodwill to find any great bargains. I just chuckled. I hope I have that spark and fire when I'm 91. (By the way, I did discourage the opting out on her driver's license renewal!)
Not an hour later, I walked into another 89-year-old matriarch. This patient I've actually had the opportunity to follow for many, many years. In typical fashion, she was wearing her bright pink hat and her island attire. She's originally from Jamaica and recently re-established residency there. She informed me that she had just flown back for this doctor's appointment! Over the years, I have learned some of her life story. She's outlived and buried three husbands, two of which have died during the time that I have known her. Yet, every time she walks in to my office, she brings a breath of sunshine. She always inquires about how I'm doing and asks to pray for me. She may stand about 4 foot 11 inches, but she is a woman of great faith stature.
Unlike the nonagenarian I had seen earlier, this patient has a litany of medical diagnoses and takes many medications. However, she seems to take it all in stride. I asked her what she thought provided the pep in her step. She chuckled, and said, "Why, it's Jesus, of course!" And, she informed me that she is feeling fabulous because, back in the islands, she is walking on the beach every single day and drinking coconut water from the coconut. She said it's always best from the source.
This past weekend, I attended the women's retreat with my church. I had no idea that God was preparing my heart to hear the theme of the weekend with my day at work. The theme of the retreat was finding spiritual refreshment. It was about diagnosing your level of spiritual dehydration and finding refreshment with living water. Several of the improvization skits throughout the weekend had me bent over laughing about the things we use as substitutes to quench our thirst instead of the true living water. Just like my patient who knew that the coconut water straight from the coconut was much better than the imitation bottle, I was reminded through my patients and through the retreat that the true source of strength and rejuvenation comes through the God of the universe who provides true hope, healing, and restoration.
"But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
All of these patients have found a strength beyond themselves. My prayer is that I can direct my patients, my friends, my family any anyone else I encounter to the One that can quench their spiritual dehydration with living water.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-38)
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