Mommy Doc Madness: I’m Fine!


Last Thursday morning, I headed out on my typical run. I was lost in thought concerning the uncertainties in my life including what is happening at work, where my kids will go to school, if I will ever be able to cook a hot meal again, etc., when my thoughts were interrupted by a loud yelp. About 25 yards ahead of me on Dilworth Road a fellow runner had just fallen. I saw the whole thing happen in slow motion. He had tripped on the same uneven area of sidewalk that had tripped me before. His ankle turned badly and he rolled across the pavement, winding himself up in his dog leash. His companion dog sat there whimpering. I ran up to the gentleman and asked if he was all right or if I could help in anyway. He repeatedly said: “I'm fine . . . I'm fine . . . I'm fine.” I offered to go for help, and he insisted that he was only a few blocks from home. Given the roll of his ankle, I'm not sure he could walk. But, it was clear he did not want my help at all. So, I turned and headed on up the hill. I laughed when I thought about how much I was like this gentleman. Just last Sunday, I had one of those “I'm fine” moments. My usual wake up time is at 4:30 AM so I can go run or workout. However, on the Sabbath, I had not set my clock as I wanted to sleep in. At 6:10 my bladder awakened me abruptly, and I hopped out of bed, making a beeline to the bathroom. The last thing I remember was sitting down on the toilet. My next memory is Joe's voice from the bedroom yelling, “Carmen, are you OK?” There's then a void in time, and the next thing I remember is Joe shaking me and yelling, “I'm calling 911! I’m calling 911!” I looked up at Joe and thought, "why in the world are you shaking me?" He said that I had passed out and fallen off the toilet. I incredulously responded, no, that I was lying in the bed and that he was bothering me. He then pointed out that I was flat on the bathroom floor, that I had a knot and rug rash on my forehead, and that my pajama pants were at my ankles. Sure enough, I looked around and he was right . . .even about my pants!

I responded that I was fine I just wanted him to leave me alone. I started to get up and realized that I may not be fine, and the bathroom floor felt great. It was cold, and I was incredibly clammy and sweaty. So, I just laid there a while. I did pull up my pants. When I finally got myself up and tried to get back in the bed, I realized I had a splitting headache. I choked down some Tylenol and decided to just get up and start my day. My head hurt too badly to sleep. When I went to the mirror, I realized that I had done a number on my face. I've spent the whole week trying to cover up the lump on my head and rug rash on my cheek. Mary Kay had to struggle with this one. And, I've pretty much had a headache for a week. At one point, I stood up to examine a patient and had to grab the exam table to keep from passing out. My sweet clinical assistant panicked as she thought she was going to have to catch me. I pulled myself together and stayed upright. Every day as I have looked at the computer screen for hours, I have struggled with worsening headache. On Wednesday, as I was sitting at my desk, mumbling about my splitting head, my job share partner leaned around the corner and asked: "Carmen, do you think you may have a concussion?" I responded, "of course not, I'm fine." How could I possibly have a concussion? I'm a doctor. Then, I started thinking. What are the symptoms of a concussion or traumatic brain injury? Well, injury to the head. Check. I've had the evidence on my face to prove it. Loss of consciousness. Check. Joe can confirm I was definitely out. Maybe twice. Amnesia. Check. I have no idea how I got from the toilet to the floor. Lack of coordination. Check. My staff have followed me around all week making sure I've been steady on my feet. Lack of concentration. Check. I've had a hard time staying on task. Headache. Check. It’s hurt all week, and I’ve been liberal with the ibuprofen use. Reality is, one week later, as I'm waking up the first morning since my fall without a headache, I'm finally willing to admit, yes, I probably have had a concussion. Carmen, you're an idiot. Why was that so hard for me to admit? It's because I hate being weak. More specifically, I hate admitting my own weaknesses. I’ve realized, somewhere in my formative years, I developed a warped sense of strength. Remember the verse out of Romans 15:1? "Now, we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves." Somehow, I have created a self-image that is strong. But, not for the sake of being strong. It’s the whole idea that to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). I have been incredibly blessed with a sound mind (most of the time), a great education, a solid family foundation, and good health. I have always felt the responsibility to “be strong” for those around me. But, I think I have applied that verse out of Romans incorrectly most of my life. Since watching the runner fall, I've counted how many times someone has asked me how I am doing or how is my day and I have responded, “I'm fine.” It's the socially appropriate response. The reality is, I’ve not been fine. And, I suspect most of us are not fine when asked.

I’ve realized this week that I need to admit weakness so God can display strength. I need to embrace the words of second Corinthian's 12:10: Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with the distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

God, help me to be “not fine” so You may be glorified.

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