Monday, October 2, 2023

Tough Choices

We have been talking about rest, and I want to transition to something else I've been thinking about - healing. We've talked a bit about healing in this space from time to time, and it's a topic I keep coming back to because, well, this world is broken and healing is something that most of us seem to be searching for quite often. 

As I thought about how I wanted to make this transition, a story came to mind that I don't think I have shared in this space, but I think it is safe to do so at this point. 

Let me preface this by saying that I have spent a good measure of time in the past decade working in healthcare. My work has taken me through three different hospital systems and two hospices, which have put me into multiple care facilities, not to mention the healthcare-related conversations that friends and acquaintances have asked to have with me on account of my having worked in these capacities. So as I share this story, protecting all of the details that I need to protect, I think it is safe to say that this story will not be discernible to the average reader, unless you by chance happen to be the other person who was in this room at the time. Thus, I don't believe I am breaking any confidences.

So here goes: 

Once upon a time, I was having a conversation with an individual who seemed to have a very large decision to make regarding their future. The person suffered from a form of epilepsy that had been progressing fairly quickly and destroying their hopes at living a normal life. The consequences of repeated seizures were already devastating and promised to only get worse as the next few weeks went on.

The doctor had come to this person with a proposal. He could fix the seizures for good through a fairly simple, though seldom-used, operation that would essentially sever parts of the person's brain so that the crossed wires would no longer be crossed because they would no longer be functional. In doing so, he said, he would stop the seizures immediately and they would never be a concern again. 

But. There was also a high probability that the surgery would irreparably damage the person's short-term memory. This person would not be able to acquire new information for the rest of their life. They would immediately forget every new person they met, every item they wanted to put on their grocery list, every direction through traffic they received. It could be a complete loss of short-term memory, although it could also be less-than-complete loss. There was a sliver of a chance, though highly unlikely, that the patient's short-term memory would not be affected at all. (Highly, highly unlikely.)

I sat with this individual for a long time, nearly two hours, as we talked through the options. The person was not happy about the idea of potentially even dying within the next six months as a result of the seizures worsening, but neither was the person open at all the idea of losing their short-term memory. The person's most beloved passion in life was movies, and as this person sat there talking about what short-term memory loss would look like in their life, they kept coming back to realizing that they could never watch and enjoy new movies again - they would forget the plot before it resolved and not be able to track even for an hour and a half through the narrative. 

Together, we wrestled with what seemed like a monumental decision for nearly those two hours and got nowhere closer to making a decision (which isn't always the point, mind you, although in this particular case, this person was literally losing time with every minute in which they did not make a decision). 

Finally, after about ninety minutes, this person stopped talking and looked straight at me and said, "There's one more thing." 

The doctor had mentioned, this person told me, that there was potentially one way to slow or even stop the seizures entirely without the surgery - all the person had to do was to incorporate more rest into their life. 

But, this person told me, that was simply "not an option." Rest, they said, was "off the table." It was "not possible."

So here we were, spending two hours wrestling with a decision that might not even be necessary if this person could somehow just find a little more space for rest in their life - but they were unwilling to even try.

Why do I tell you this story? (And this is a true story, by the way.) 

First, to help us bridge the gap between rest and healing. There is definitely a connection there. 

Second, to help us lean into the possibility that sometimes, maybe even often, healing is not as complicated as we try to make it.

Let's talk this week. 

No comments:

Post a Comment