Sunday, November 13, 2016

Remember the 2004-12 TV Series Called “House”? Well, here we go again – only reality makes room for miracles

Miracles We Have Seen:
America’s Leading Physicians Share Stories They Can’t Forget
Editor: Harley A. Rotbart, MD
Published by: Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 2016


I could not help but think of the TV show starring Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House as I read this book. But this time, these real doctors share stories of miraculous events that can’t be explained by medical science.  And they admit it. Some of them even attribute the outcomes to faith and God – often when nothing else can be credited with the interventions.
Seventy-five different medical professionals share their unforgettable stories. The editor almost always provides the reader the information and sources needed to follow up on these real cases. This is not only helpful but makes each story (most within our lifetime) even more real for the fact-checking, research-hungry, web-browsing enthusiast.
There is a big difference, as the book’s contributors point out, between declining proven medical treatments that are available and beneficial, choosing instead to wait for a miracle, and allowing doctors to do all they can to help save a loved one. The former approach often ends up in disappointment, while the latter allows room for miracles to occur when the science alone cannot.  That’s a major lesson we can draw from this book.
A number of stories hinge on the coincidences of location, timing, and/or the availability of the expertise. To the purpose of faith, the probability of such occurring together in any given case is too much to leave to chance, but that’s a decision each reader will have to make for themselves. Based on how these doctors write about the ‘miracle’ they share, I often wonder how many of them are ‘hidden believers’ in the Creator, but just won’t or can’t say it openly here. In this book, we seem to be getting the message, both doctors and family members, “Do your job and God (or miracles) will take care of the rest.” These doctors have learned that “beyond the limits of (their) medical knowledge and skill, there is also always the power of hope.”
One story that sticks in my mind is that told by Debra Gussman, MD, entitled “An Impossible Pregnancy”. That one alone will challenge your ‘unbeliefs’.
Miracles We Have Seen is also invaluable for teaching the non-medical reader so much about medicine and how our bodies work. What makes it particularly good in this way is that the editor(s) have made sure that the stories these professionals share are explained in ways that the average man and woman can understand.  I learned a lot. Here are but a few examples:
·      In one story entitled, It’s Alive! By Robert J. Buys, MD, we learn about an “embolus” (the term for any kind of substance that shouldn’t be there traveling through the bloodstream) and how doctors attempt to deal with one that is in the eye. Fascinating insight (no pun intended).
·      White blood cells being a sign of inflammation, the body’s response to infection and other foreign substances.
·      What doctors mean by the term “failure to thrive” when referring to children, that is, a condition in which growth and body weight are far below normal.
·      Transplanted hearts (or any organ for that matter) come with great challenges – nothing is better than the organs we were born with if we can keep them working well.
·      An ‘obtunded’ patient is one who is losing consciousness or difficult to arose.
·      As a general rule, “people who fall three stories. . . have about a fifty-fifty chance of survival.”
·      And many more things and terms and practices and discouragements. For example, the realization by doctors working in Africa that healing cannot be just “medical”, it is often economic, as one patient stares them in the eye and says, “Cure my poverty, and you will cure me.”
The stories in this book are divided into major chapters entitled: Spectacular Serendipity; Impossible Cures; Breathtaking Resuscitations (my favorite); Extraordinary Awakenings (my second favorite); Unimaginable Disasters; Mysterious Presence; Global Miracles (dealing with epidemics); Miracles In Their Own Time (a modern historical perspective); Paying It Forward; Difficult Decisions (my third favorite); Silver Linings; and Back To The Beginning (transforming doctors into professionals – a great piece of writing).
We learn how doctors, pediatricians in particular, have a hard time as they often project their own children onto their patients, sometimes “identifying so strongly that it’s difficult to stay objective”. Then there are the times when doctors feel, “Yes, we have saved a life, but to what end?” That’s the often haunting question when one knows the patient will live but not as one would have preferred.
And if that’s not enough, in the Epilogue we are told that 100% of the author proceeds are divided among 75 different charities designated by the contributors and listed in that section.
I had occasion to be in the hospital right after I read this book. It greatly enhanced my appreciation of the wonderful doctor that took care of me.  Very highly recommended by anyone who is a doctor or ever needs to see one.
·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, November 13, 2016.

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