This I Believe

Caroline - North Hollywood, California
Entered on April 13, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness, setbacks

This I believe…One either builds up or tears down, heals or hurts, helps or damages.

A chain of small, connected events crystallized this belief. When a swollen, enflamed ankle made taking even a simple step agony, I thought the culprit a pulled muscle. After all, I reasoned, I’m an athlete — a runner, figure skater and weight lifter — and, although almost 50, indestructible, I thought. But the intense pain drove me to call my doctor. It was only after the medical crisis ended that I recognized, in gratitude, the individual reactions that added up to possibly saving my foot.

I called Dr. Ara Poladian’s office on Friday and was told to come in late that same afternoon, a day and time when many professionals already have started their weekends. He determined I needed x-rays and insisted I go to a local emergency room to get them. He would not listen to my protests to delay another examination until the following Monday.

Others I know did not have the fortune of a doctor to insist on an immediate exam and prompt, effective treatment. A cousin and my father faced amputations from what started as foot infections.

I would not have gone to an emergency room without my doctor’s prodding, finding it a depressing arena of despairing souls shuffled through various stations as the pall of anxiety hangs overhead. I did not relish waiting in a room amid crying babies, sick people accompanied by worried relatives and television sets broadcasting in the background – a place where humanity is exposed as a set of weak bodies, and bureaucracy reigns.

Once there, the staff determined I immediately needed antibiotics. When I finally arrived at a just-closing pharmacy and told the pharmacist I would return on Monday, she insisted on keeping her pharmacy open to fill my prescription.

Over the next week, my condition improved, and although I could consider the event as just another medical condition treated and forgotten, the situation revealed more.

What if Dr. Poladian decided to take the late Friday afternoon off, or not squeeze in another patient, or weigh examining me against the burden of submitting an insurance claim that under-reimburses medical visits? Suppose he said No to me, instead of Yes? What if his nurse Shoghik wasn’t there to take my call or had called in sick, herself, or didn’t want to bother the doctor with another patient on short notice?

Over the following week my cousin Geri, an ordained minister, called on me. But what if she decided she was too busy with her ministry duties to check with me?

Dysfunctional relationships grab much attention, but this experience gave me renewed gratitude for the web of relationships that free us. I believe these positive connections get shockingly little focus. They do not restrain us but instead, in small ways not clear to us at the time, give us the opportunity to be fully human and transcend the difficulties in our lives.

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