|Ironman race fans line the course, waiting for..........you.|
“….he did not know how well he sang, he only heard the flaws.”
Martin Tanner by Harry Chapin
My wife had, in her office recently, a patient whom she’d referred to me 18 years ago for a total knee replacement. This most significantly obese, manic depressive woman who raises prize winning Labrador Retrievers, of which we have two, noted that after nearly two decades of punishing this knee that it was beginning to give her problems again.
But, when my wife shared this with me, rather than thinking how much good use this patient had gotten from her prosthesis or that eighteen years was incredible in this situation, two opposing thoughts arose. When surgeons receive unrequested follow up on a patient regarding something they’ve done in the past their first thoughts are negative. Unforeseen side effect in our litigious society. Infection, peri-prosthetic fracture, pulmonary embolism, did I do something incorrectly, and the like. All glass is half empty stuff. And when this patient was discharged from my practice many years ago, she was overwhelmingly grateful. Grateful to the point of tears.
Perhaps like a rock star used to, conditioned to, acclimated to adulation, we as physicians receive thanks from patients on a daily if not hourly basis and we may occasionally lose sight of the differences we have made in people’s lives. Our patients offer genuine, sincere appreciation of our help without the expectation of secondary gain. Successful endurance athletes, to a degree, are the same.
Has the passage of time, and 1,000 thank yous, or race fans cheering "You the man" numbed us to the automatic? If we look around at our triathlon peer group and see this common response to being cheered do we erroneously think, as Joe Walsh sings, “…everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed…lucky I’m the same after all I’ve been through.” When you fly down the finishing chute of an Ironman, and the fans want to high five you - yes you - do your own personal thoughts, possibly embarrassment, preclude you from enjoying the moment? I think the answer is, to some degree, yes for all of us.
I want to share with you a remarkable letter written to a Primary Care friend of mine who wasn’t even the author’s doctor but a chance medical encounter changed her life forever. You have the same opportunity every time you race, to every child on the race course, many of the adults, and that volunteer in the changing tent who's total focus is you.
Dear Doctor _____
I am hoping I have contacted the same physician who had patients at Sandy Ridge SNF ...in 2004. I was a CNA there during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. I was working a night shift when I asked you about liver tests because I had overdosed February ’04. You might not remember me but I will never forget you or lose my gratitude for your advice. It was obvious I was depressed at the time. I know I told you I was self-injuring and my friends I was staying with hid their knives. You said I needed friends like that. Your advice was to go running; it would help me put color back in my world. I took your advice and began walk-running.
September 2006, so two years later, I ran my first marathon and had been out of depression for some time. A few weeks ago, my husband and fifteen month daughter old and I went to Chicago for me to run my first ultra-marathon, a 50K. I have also run 9 marathons and feel so much better. I earned my masters in Speech Pathology ’07 and work on Saturdays in a rehab hospital and during the week I stay home with my little girl. I know our interaction was very brief but running has saved my life and I thank you for listening and your wisdom.
God bless, Julie ___________
Although letters like this are infrequent, gratitude is not. Try to take that extra minute to savor peoples appreciation of your triathlon efforts before putting the force shields back in place to do battle with the pain of racing. Your efforts provide the roll model for those in our society who will not or cannot exercise the way you do. Although it's a role you only find yourself infrequently, it's one you need to play. At the end of your career, the grateful patient (or race fan) stays with you.
|IRONMAN Parade of Nations for the fans in Kona.|
|Big Island Athletes get a special ride in the Parade of Nations.|