Sunday, November 23, 2014

At Peace Inside/Creating Peace for Others

It's been 3 months since I said goodbye to Dad.  Through introspection and soul searching, I was able to accept him being gone but more importantly understand that his spirit/memory/legacy is more important to my future than ever before.  I used to tap into his wisdom asking for advise whenever life was challenging.  He served as a grounding force for me.  I remember a picture he painted for me in high school when I was frustrated in fixing a car; when ever he would get flustered in surgery and what he planned wasn't working to save a patient

-he would pause/step outside the operating room/let go of the frustration/return with a sense of peace and calm.

I carried his teaching with me into my practice of medicine.  When a patient presents to me and seems complicated, frustrated, suffering without hope; I help them step back, ground, recollect strength and set goals.  No matter what the disease or how advanced it is, there is always a way to find peace again.  Medicines and surgery may help but it is up to the patient and his/her spiritual team to reconnect with the most abundant form of healing-the Universe.  I often run into people (guys especially) who see the world in concrete terms. "Life is a biological process and events that occur are purely coincidental without any spiritual connection".  I personally believe in God but don't force others to follow how my parents raised me.  I see that when all hope is erased from someone due to medical complications or a terminal diagnosis, if the person I am examining has no spiritual practice or belief....they are essentially at a very dark abyss with no light.  When that realization sets in, fight or flight is turned on every minute of every day until the adrenals are just burned out and can't produce enough adrenaline/epinephrine to keep up with daily suffering.  At that point, they are still at the abyss but just so fatigued and depressed that jumping off seems the only way to end the suffering.  My goal in the 60-90 minutes I spend with them is not necessarily to cure the diagnosis they arrive with but more to help them....

-step outside their frustration and return to a sense of peace and calm

It is proven with developing a meditative practice (or just practicing mindfulness) that brain tissue grows, DNA gets turned on, white blood cells work more efficiently and the adrenal cortical system slows down.  At the least; a patient suffering can step back from the abyss for a while.  At the most; the trillions of self repairing/designed to exist/never taking-a-break cells can function at their peak to fix what toxins/damage/trauma has been presented.  I can usually create a plan for lifestyle change that I review after printing and wonder ...."where do I get these ideas?!".  It usually comes from an article I read a few months back/or a lecture I attended during fellowship training or with a previous experience in my past.  Regardless of how answers come, I have to be in a state of peace or else my brain can't pull these ideas together and I don't get to tap into that message that resonates inside me while face to face.  (The opposite happens in most medical practices-when the doctor is flustered and stressed and hungry; creativity decreases and problem solving just reverts to an algorithm so the patient is turned into a statistic and standard therapy is prescribed).

I don't mean to say every doctor should spend 60-90 minutes with their patients.  With reimbursement the way it is now.....all medical offices would be bankrupt in 12 months.  When I work the immediate care (my main source of income) I am moving quickly (I reluctantly admit to seeing a patient every 10-15 minutes) but in this setting, I justify it as important for people to start the healing process early to decrease time off work/infecting other family members/decreasing pain/stopping vomiting......and I have to work these numbers to help show that there is a need for the hospital to keep an immediate care center open and de-fuse the ER.  (Not to mention cutting back on the spending government insurance pays for patients with no docs to be seen quickly).   Today at noon, 9 people walked in at the same time and I had an immediate wait time of 1.5-2 hours (if I spent less than 15 minutes each)....and more people continued to arrive (cough/cold/flu) pushing back the wait time further.  I could have freaked out and showed my frazzled state to each patient I greeted but I chose not to.  I sat through the 21st day of  Deepak and Oprah's Energy of Attraction and remembered the centering thought "My presence creates peace".  I had to be the beacon for the staff to stay calm and the patients to know they will be seen and attended to 110%.   (I had one patient that was coughing for 7 days, getting worse and worried she would have to cancel her breast cancer double mastectomy next week......and here I am worrying about getting out on time and having something to eat!)

During my Dad's last 2 weeks on earth, I stayed by his bedside and scrutinized every specialist, reviewed every order in his chart, made suggestions and "controlled his case".  I didn't want him to go and I saw rays of light when I reported to the family daily progress.  In the end, Dad decided to leave on his terms, at his matter how I had the medical team intervene and no matter how many hours I stayed up next to him.  Dad became part of what Lao Tzu calls "invisible forces" and his final lesson to me was:

-step away from chaos, comfort others by becoming peace....and purpose in life will find you.

Dad knew I was adopting healing traditions outside the standard medicine and I was still searching for how I could fit in with "my kind" of practice. The day I cremated him I received a call from my old medical director stating she wanted me to join her in private practice.  We hadn't spoken in 10 years!!!  I asked her why she decided to call me at that specific time....said she had been thinking about me for the last year but was "drawn to reach out" on that day.  I then heard from a physician recruiter at the Advocate Sherman Hospital....we had spoken in the past but she was "praying for an answer" to find a physician to spear head a new medical center being built!!! Whether you believe in God, a higher source....or have no spiritual "insides" the least, these happenings are way too coincidental.  I feel it's my Mama and Dad/the Universe telling me that when life doesn't seem to be going the right way, maintain mindfulness in the emotional tsunami and the right path off the abyss with show itself.