One question that I been asked over and over since the diagnosis and surgery is what have you learned from all this? To be honest, I have not discovered a sweeping lesson here (at least not yet), but as the title of this post suggests, one virtue that I have always found especially important, and even more so since the surgery is patience.
I’ve always been called a ‘laid back’ guy. In the past I didn’t give this comment much thought but was flattered by the observation. What is actually meant when someone is deemed ‘laid back’? Webster defines it as someone “having a relaxed style or character.” I’ve always interpreted it as a compliment, but I’m sure to some, it’s actually a veiled insult, with the comment “you’re so laid back” meaning “unlike you I pay attention to and care about details .” Regardless of the intent, I’ve always thought it to mean: someone who can roll with the punches. But the more I think about it, a ‘laid back’ person is a patient one, someone who can stay calm in the face of adversity.
It’s true, only a laid back person could let 18 years of vertigo and one year of leg weakness go unaddressed. My attitude may in fact have delayed my diagnosis, but this is the only instance that I found it detrimental. Since the surgery I can think of countless numbers of times that patience has been crucial to my recovery.
——- Patience in…Recovery ———–
The number one place that patience has been paramount is my recovery. This was less difficult in the beginning phases of my recovery as my gains were more noticeable. Now the gains are there but less pronounced. I would liken it to watching grass grow: if you spent every second of every day watching the grass and measuring it, you wouldn’t notice it getting longer. But if you were to leave it for a week (and tend to something else) you would undoubtedly notice the increase in length. This has been the case with my recovery. Early in my recovery, I would wake up and be able to perform a task I couldn’t the previous day. Now, a part of me thinks that my recovery is done and over with, and what I have now is what I will be left with. But luckily those who are not with me on a day to day basis, tell me that I look better than when they saw me last, and that I am making improvement.
For me there are definite moments of frustration: every loss of balance, every “what?” that I often hear in conversation because of my delayed speech, every fumbled object in my hands (revealing my poor motor skills) is accompanied by moments of frustration. Fortunately, I recognize this frustration, and try to quell it. I take several deep breaths and remind myself where I was immediately after the surgery—confined to an ICU bed, unable to care for myself, let alone walk. I remember to appreciate where I am today and the progress that I have made. Patience, and a sense of calm then takes over. When I was in the hospital on the Rehabilitation Floor, my Family Doctor would often remind me “Chris, you’re going to get better, but it will take time. Remember, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
—– Return to Residency—–
I do not want to go into the exhaustive details of my attempts to return to residency, as the process is still ongoing, but what I will say is that the process has been an exercise in patience. Patience from me, patience from the Family Medicine program, and patience from Sparrow. From my perspective I cannot wait to return to seeing patients, and would love nothing more than returning to the clinic. But I know that my return has to be done the right way; I have to be ready and all the necessary documents must be signed and reviewed .
I mentioned that I have seen a Vocational Rehabilitation specialist. I initially thought that she would advise me on my options after residency (i.e. other career options besides clinical practice) but she has taken it upon herself to spearhead my return to residency. She is constantly in touch with both Sparrow and me. She has been wonderful, and I cannot imagine where I’d be in this process without her. In our last meeting, she implored that I sign and send in all the provided paperwork to expedite the process. My response to her was that I wanted to review all these documents first. While errantly signing a form could hasten my return, it could also have long term unforeseen negative effects. Patience here, I told her, is key.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that can have patience can have what he will.” Even though my ‘patience’ might have delayed my diagnosis, I hope that as Benjamin Franklin surmised, that it will result in a full recovery.
 I remember in college, I was in the midst of stringing a tennis racquet when the string broke- forcing me to start over. There was another tennis player in the room who said, “Wow, you’re so laid back- I would have gone crazy.” Thinking about it more, while she could have meant this as a compliment, she could have indirectly been telling me what a bad stringer I was, and that something like that would never happen to her.
[AA1] don’t quite understand this. Could you clarify?
[AA2]For legal reasons I really don’t think you should say that you might put a patient’s health at risk. In a court of law, they can use anything they find from you on the internet and use it against you. God forbid anything should happen, you do not want these kind of words floating out there in cyberspace. Moreover you are not putting anyone at risk any more than any other resident. You are fully mentally capable.