|Brothers from other mothers (L-->R) Willie, Nick, Chad, Rory|
Me: "Did the person survive?"
Fred: "Surviving an OD is pretty terrible."
Me: "It's better than being dead, though."
Tim: "If you haven't died then how do you know if anything else is better? And the word better is so subjective."
Me: "Tim, if you think being dead is better than being alive, you've got some serious living to do. Just sayin'."
Tim: "But you've never been dead. Don't try and get philosophical on me. I just asked a question. Geez (reattaching my head after it has been bitten off)."
Tim had a valid point about the word "better" being subjective. Some people believe they're better off dead. And some people consider other people's lives to be a waste. I guess it all depends on your outlook. My outlook is heavily influenced by text messages like this one that I'd just received from my son, Rory, who along with his identical twin brother, Nick, suffers from cystic fibrosis.
|Rory (L) & his yellow-gowned hospital visitors, Chad & Nick|
If death is the end of all experience, then Tim's argument that you'd have to experience being dead to confidently assert that it's better to be alive was pretty lame. And, he was the one getting philosophical, presumptive, and touchy. I knew responding to him any further was a waste of time and energy, but I decided to play along anyway. Yeah, sometimes, I can be an asshole.
Me: "No one's bitten your head off. Why so sensitive?"
Tim: "Can't talk now! Reattaching my head...be back after these messages. Sensitive? I don't give a shit, dude! lol"
|Me, Walt Whitman, and Chet the Jet|
Me: "Have you ever spoken to someone who's had a near-death experience? I have, and though they say death isn't scary, they all agree it's much better to be alive. It's a matter of one's attitude toward dealing with reality. After you reattach your head, consider brushing away that chip on your shoulder :-D"
I'm sure a few eyes are rolling heavenward right about now. Near-death experience? LOL. Well, considering the fact that I give anesthesia for a living, and that general anesthesia is basically a controlled near-death experience, my response isn't so far-fetched.
And yes, I've interviewed a number of patients who've reported near death experiences following traumatic injury or cardiac arrest. One of my former partners, Steve, a middle-aged heavy smoker, had such an experience at work. We had a super stressful call schedule that involved at least 24 full hours of little or no sleep, e.g. once things quieted down in the operating room, you were up all night placing epidurals on labor and delivery.
|In anesthesia, we welcome dull moments like having lunch together!|
What Steve told me about that experience still gives me chills. He says he remembers being in the recovery room, standing off to the side, watching our colleagues diligently gathered around a stretcher, frantically giving CPR to someone. He didn't know who they were working on, and no one was paying any attention to him. Despite all the adrenaline-fueled commotion surrounding him, he felt a sense of absolute calm and peace, accompanied by a complete lack of fear. It wasn't religious or spiritual, just a profound sense of well-being. Instantaneously, he was hovering over himself, looking down at himself on that stretcher, and apparently, that's the moment his heart started spontaneously beating again. He then underwent emergent cardiac catheterization and stenting of his occluded coronary artery. He even quit smoking for awhile. After that experience, one thing Steve's sure of is that death no longer frightens him.
Tim: "Chips are great! Who doesn't like dip and chips!! Your not living life. Buddy!!!"
Tim: "And just to be real. If there is another side to our reality, who is to say it is good or bad or any human emotion. Just thinking further than planet earth and all us humans man."
Me: "Well, that's why we have the arts, poetry, philosophy, and practical common sense
|My new favorite restaurant!|
Lao-tzu wrote: "See the world as your self. Have faith in the way things are. Love the world as your self; then you can care for all things." His writings are imbued with a sense of optimism: "Stop thinking and end your problems...trust your natural responses and everything will fall into place."
My conversation with Tim stopped there. My 21 year old nephew, Evan, "liked" my last comment, and that was pretty much that. Maybe I'll run into Tim someday...he buses tables at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants. Small world, huh?
My thoughts were with Rory the rest of that day, wishing that I could somehow relieve his burden. But, I don't think either of us spends too much time wishing away his disease. In fact, it's acceptance of it that brings both relief and life-enhancing innovation. The things we can't change don't negate the abundance of what we've got to work with. They give rise to creative solutions. Maybe it's no coincidence that Spartacus and I ended up having dinner Friday night at a joint called "The Optimist."
|"Confidence is high!"|
|Cat on a hot tin roof. Meow!|
*A loosely paraphrased summation of a discussion on BlogCatalog by Marty Rubin aka nothingprofound): "Do you think it's possible to live without illusions?"