One of my colleagues came into the emergency room yesterday with a small stroke. When his MRI suggested that the stroke may have resulted from a blood clot in his heart, I was asked to take a picture with my transesophageal probe. The study instantly revealed the cause of his stroke, a rare, benign but nevertheless life threatening cardiac tumor. It had to come out, and as soon as soon as he woke up from my test I showed him the pictures and asked him which surgeon he wanted me to call.
As he stared at this god awful piece of crap flopping around in his left atrium like a jellyfish, a big grin spread across his face. He looked like a school boy who has just solved a difficult math problem. "Interesting" he said, and went back to sleep. He had after all become his own fascinating case. In that moment he dealt with the terror of his situation by removing himself to a familiar comfort zone, the dispassionate doctor presiding over an intellectual problem. He found a way to swallow his spit and go forward. He went to the operating room 3 hours later.
I only wish I had done half as well with my most recent injury. I haven't been the sturdy, stoical fellow I assumed I would always be in such a situation. I've been angry and blaming and self pitying and full of doubt about whether I would resume my former physical self, despite the almost daily evidence of improvement and the steady, patient reassurance of my outstanding physician and physical therapist (I know I know, you're stunned to hear me say anything good in relation to our health care system). In sum, I was far short of the man I thought I would be in my moment of affliction.
You never know until you get there. Sometimes we surprise ourselves. More often, it seems, we disappoint.
My colleague, BTW, had a great result. Woke up after his surgery without difficulty, still grinning.