MUSIC OF HOPE
As music is a universal healer
Of all that ails us, our troublers
Of all that weighs down our spirit
And makes the heart heavy with pain.
No matter what the affliction
Or what wind blows it in
All can get stopped by a note
Played on the strings of the soul
Or drums of the heart.
Though the pain of the deprived
And the tears of a hungry child
Can shout out with anger
The melody of a tune
Can shine a light and lift the spirit.
And if one thing is sure in life
Is that the sky is darkest before dawn
Through all the cruelty and despair, shine
Comes from hope, and hope always rises
As the crescendo of a song.
And all that trouble can get sung away.
So, bring it on, oh whisperers of melodies and hope,
Make it sing. Make it sing for us all.
THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE
It was late in the evening on a miserable night with a very thick fog covering everything. I was stationed at the USAF Hospital in Lakenheath, England, and working the ER that night. We were dealing with the victims of a bad head on collision, on the notoriously narrow English country roads.
What made this night different enough that, fifty years later I still remember it, was the circumstances surrounding it. It was Spring equinox, which occurred on the weekend. I was looking forward to traveling to London for the equinox celebrations with family members. Imagine my disappointment when I found my name on the roster to cover the ER that weekend. So, I bribed a colleague to switch days with me, but was told that he could work the weekend but not Friday. Still, I agreed, planning to drive to London after work that night. But everything seemed to work against me, as the exceptionally thick fog rolled in, making it impossible to drive the long distance. The injured from the accident had arrived late, and by regulation I had to remain at my post until patients from my shift were taken care of, admitted or discharged. So, I gave up and surrendered to faith that I was going to miss the festivities.
As it happened, I later learned that the fog was even worse in London, and the British police had closed a big section of the road due to ice that night. The colleague, with whom I had made the arrangement to work for me, could not make it back, and I ended working the entire weekend after all.
The weekend turned out one of the busiest in the history of our hospital. The inclement weather kept many home, forcing those of us already on duty to remain there. Several more accidents of all kinds, brought an unusually large number of patients to our door. I, then, remembered a similar incident several years earlier, when during the great power blackout in New York City, many of our colleagues couldn’t get to work, as subways were out of order. Many accidents and injuries brought a large number to our ER, necessitating the setup of an emergency triage area. I mentioned that to the doctor in charge of our military ER and he agreed, asking me to set it up.
It worked well and we survived the onslaught better than any of us hoped for. I received a letter of commendation for that weekend - actually we all did. That letter was instrumental for my promotion, next time the promotion board met – and paid off nicely. Once again proving – to me at least – the value of experience.
MARCH IS WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH
My life in medicine started as a young boy. I was brought up by my grandmother, who was a powerful curandera. Though she was practically illiterate, her knowledge of home remedies, botany, and common-sense healthcare was well known and she was highly respected. Growing in her care, I learned much just by watching and often helping her.
As many who have read my book: Practicing From the Heart in the Age of Technology can attest, I have high respect for women of medicine. Many stories in my book are of experiences working with them around the world. It gave me a perspective on healthcare which otherwise would not have been possible:
A wonderful nun and nurse with whom I had the privilege of working in Southern Colorado, would often drive many miles on mountainous and dangerous roads of the area to deliver care to people who - due to mental disabilities - were not even aware of her presence. I learned a lot from that lady, particularly obstetrics, as I helped her home-deliver several babies. Some under extremely trying conditions, as many families lived in primitive conditions without electricity or plumbing.
Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias, practiced at Lincoln Hospital in South Bronx, NY, when I was in my residency at that hospital. The programs she started and the way she practiced medicine, touched many of us. She said: “We need health, but above all we need to create a grounding for healthy public policy that redresses and salvages the growing inequities. We cannot achieve a healthier us without achieving a healthier, more equitable health care system, and ultimately, a more equitable society.”
And my favorite, Dr. Angela Ramirez, a female Puerto Rican physician. She was a surgical resident at Elmhurst Hospital in NY when I was a nineteen-year-old tech working in the ER. When she learned of my background of working in surgery back in my home country, she took special interest in teaching me, and encouraging me to pursue medicine.
Another lady I have the honor of knowing is Doctor Regina Benjamin. Her history is most fascinating and enlightening. Born in Mobile, Alabama, to a poor family, she was the first from her family to receive an M.D.
Dr. Benjamin was the first African-American female physician appointed the U.S. Surgeon General in 2009 — appointed by President Barack Obama.
I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many people like them in my years of medical work. I learned more from them than all the schooling I received otherwise. Perhaps the greatest and most important lesson has been how to be compassionate in the face of adversity, care for everyone even when they themselves stop caring. How to teach while learning and learn while teaching. As Maya Angelou once said; “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
GATEWAYS OF INFINITY
In the vastness of the West
Among the standing sentinels of rock and stone
Numerous arches, carved by wind and water
Through eons of time, have built gateways
To eternities of space and time itself.
The view to far away, from within
Seem to warp and deviate from that of without
And tells of dimensions, only thinking minds
Can decipher and wisdomed eyes can see.
Look at my expanse, they decree
Oh seekers of truth, and learn
That these stones are a part of the living me
Their sculptured face, testament to all that is shaped
By the very creator of you as well as me
Be kind to all that you see and don’t see
As our destiny is entwined by land and sea
Wind and water and watched over by stars!
THE HARDEST JOB YOU’LL LOVE
Of smoky skies and shaken land
Such is the destiny at hand
For all, who wonder of our faith
Of today, tomorrow, and life's prospect
For what awaits us is uncertain
Yet here it is, a future to ascertain
From the natural world and man
In hope of a better life and chance
Healthcare providers are on the frontline of this war on uncertainty. For no matter what turmoil, nature, society, politics, pandemics, wars, man's instinctive desires and selfishness create, to our tabernacles of healthcare, the effected come for solace. But the demands are overwhelming and help is needed. Join them and experience the true magic of medicine. Promise is made that you will be tired and exhausted beyond belief. It will seem that you work thirty hours a day, ten days a week, but LOVE every minute of it.
There is nothing more terrifying than a man’s sanctuary becoming his tomb in an instant. This week’s earthquake in Türkiye and Syria is a fearsome example of nature’s wrath.
In a world full of calamities; whether crime, war, climate change, economic perils, or natural disasters such as this earthquake, we are hit by so much news of misfortune, that its effect can quickly be replaced. Therefore, it is essential to help in any way we can right away while its mark is in front of us. As healthcare providers, we can do much more than just send money. Our help and knowledge is more valuable than any monetary donation. Contributions usually help organizations and governments, not the poor and afflicted. Your presence will help the truly needy. Please consider volunteering your services for a few weeks or months. Not only will your work be greatly valued, but you will return richer with wisdom.
World Health Organization (WHO), Doctors Without Border, International Red Cross and Red Crescent, Project Hope and many other organizations are seeking volunteers. Let’s help them.
Wow your patient
Like a high wire trapeze swinging
Fearless from stand to stand
Listen to the concerns
And confidently traverse the
Possibilities till you land
Emphatically on the solution
Of your patient's problem
To see the problem clearly
You have to follow thoroughly
The path that led
Your patient to your door
Only then will you know
All that is facing you then and there
And with that clear understanding
Resolve to treat their problem
Such sleuthing cannot be done
Chained to a regiment
Dictated by seekers of profit
Or chasers of fortune
For medicine is an art
Of personal interaction
Not a brick in the building
Of a chaotic tower of confusion
Only by meticulous learning
Can a solution be found to every problem!
A New Year Resolution
The political atmosphere of the day demands clarity as we enter the new year. The world in 2023 will be preoccupied with many regional and international problems. In Europe, the Russia/Ukraine war shock of 2022 reverberates. Many European countries looking to the US for answers, are disillusioned by our polarized and distrusting political parties. The ongoing chaos in Brazil is troubling at the least. And in the far-east, resource-rich China is quietly filling the economic void created by western infighting, adding more uncertainties for people of all nationalities. As though these calamities were not enough, mother nature is on her own rampage, further confounding the challenges.
In the middle of this chaos, live millions of homeless and refugees that, due to no fault of their own, have lost everything and are looking for hope and a chance to begin anew. Yet the protectionism of many is drowning that hope. As the United Nations Secretary-General; Antonio Guterres said; "I remember the times when most borders would be open and now, we see borders closed, now people do not even have the right to be a refugee in many parts of the world."
In these times of uncertainties, psychological as well as physical hardships sicken people. Not to mention the deplorable conditions they live under. Moreover, the recent epidemics are further isolating many. The only hope for them is a visit to a healthcare provider – if there are any among them. The challenge for us healthcare providers is to be able to treat our patients without prejudice and bias of our own.
Fortunately, our new technologies help us reach more of the needy near and far. It even allows us to care for our enemies, without jeopardizing safety. Let us all get out, communicate with more people and spread hope! It’s a resolution worth having.
MY TREE CASTLE
There is a treehouse in our backyard
I do not know who built it
As to my recollection it was always there
I do recall a day when I smashed my thumb
Trying to hammer a nail into the floor
It got black and blue, and hurt for days
A week later, when uncle John came to visit
He fixed my treehouse and even put a new roof
My dad said it was my kingdom and that
I was the princess of the tree castle
I cried that I didn’t want to be a princess
That it was my castle, and I was the queen
But a pretty little girl should be a princess
NO! I said and my mom agreed that
It was my castle and if I wanted
To be the queen, it was OK.
Now many years later, when I go home
I see that my castle is in need of repair
My daughter, now three, claimed
That she wanted to be the queen
So last week, visiting my folks for X-mas
I took hammer and nails to fix the castle
And smashed my thumb again
It is black and blue now, and
The pain brings back many memories
Having a castle can be painful but fulfilling!
FIFA or the World Cup is usually held in the summer. But due to the location of the event - this year in Qatar - it was moved to December. Qatar is on the south side of the Persian Gulf and the northeast side of the Arabian Peninsula where it is known as ‘God’s Anvil,’ as was said in the movie: Lawrence of Arabia. The formidable winds from North Africa, further heat up as they cross this scorching barren land. Even though FIFA is being held in December, the games are played after sunset, to protect the players from heatstroke.
The games have been a good distraction from an otherwise very difficult year. Like millions of people around the world, I’ve been glued to the TV for the past weeks. Yesterday’s match between France and Morocco was a nail biter. Even though France won, Morocco sure gave them a run. The first African nation to make it to the semi-final and play so well. The final game between Argentina and France will be on Sunday (Dec. 18) 8 AM mountain time. It will be another exciting game.
How I wish we could get this excited about our healthcare. Even a little excitement would add to the well-being of us all, and with all the technology available to us, it would be at a fraction of the cost of establishing, providing and participating in these international pastimes. Of course, I realize that it is the teamwork and competitiveness of sports that make them so exciting and healthcare is not a competitive sport. But it does require and demand teamwork. That teamwork could be built upon. As healthcare providers, we can assure that the service we provide is to the best of our ability. And showing a little enthusiasm in providing it, well, could be contagious.
Let us hope and pray for a better year full of contagious enthusiasm ahead.