I believe in the magical healing power of Britney Spears. A medical professional isn’t supposed to use such phrases and she’s not a shaman nor faith healer (nor claims to be). But I’ve seen her work firsthand.
Britney’s star has faded lately but in early 2001 she was the IT girl. As a pediatrician you try to keep up with the kids and she was everywhere.
I was an intern at an East Coast Hospital and furiously trying to stay ahead. Winter is the worst time to be in pediatrics- sick kids swamp the hospital beds and ER hallways.
Patients with asthma can be hit especially hard. Jack was one of them. We admitted him from the ER wheezing and gasping. He stabilized with medications and two days later he was pretty close to normal.
“I want you to get up and walk,” I told him that morning. “You need to get around without any problems then we can send you home.”
The gawky pre-teen considered me fearfully “Ok, but what if I tighten up again?”
“You’ll be fine. Try going to the teen room. We have movies CD’s video games. . “ Our team moved on to the next patient.
The next morning Jack’s nurse shook her head. “Every time he’s out of bed, he feels wheezy but his lungs are totally clear. When he’s calm, he’s fine.”
I got him to at least sit up in bed. His breathing sped up.
“I can’t do it, I’m still very sick.” He wheezed.
I sighed. We had 12 other patients to see.
Then I had an inspiration. “Jack do you like Britney Spears?”
Valentine’s Day was approaching and another intern had jokingly given me a Britney valentine. It was a perfect summation of her brilliance- she smiled innocently, knowingly. I pulled the card out of my pocket and put it to his face.
“Whenever you get tight I want you to think of this picture; focus on Britney.”
Wide eyed, he nodded. He closed his eyes breathed deep and we got him to the doorway. Then down the hall to the teen room where he spent most of the day, listening to music.
The next day I saw his mom push him in a wheelchair into a waiting elevator. His suitcase was perched on his lap. He smiled brightly and waved. “Hey, you cured me!”
I waved back and told him the truth. “You did it yourself.”
That’s what I thought while I watched the elevator doors close. But what was the truth? Was it the reach of Britney’s music and perfect posture? I’m not sure. But I think the important part isn’t the actual inspiration- a pop icon, a poem, a stretch of nature- but rather the power they are assigned by our brains. These allow us to complete a crucial part of healing. We can close our eyes, breathe deep and envision a better life. They give us the courage to stand up and make it so.
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