This I Believe

Bob - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Entered on July 23, 2007

I believe in my fellow man.

Ten minutes ago I watched my 10 year-old son walk into a holding area, a team of anesthesiologists escorting him. In a few minutes, another group of nurses will shave his head and prepare him for the brain surgery that awaits him today.

This journey of faith in humankind began New Year’s Eve day last year. A seizure in the middle of the night alerted us to the fact that our heretofore healthy little boy was not perfect. As the seizure occurred in a hotel room around 2 am, my first act of faith was to entrust him to the burly security guard who carried him to a waiting ambulance while we dressed and gathered our wits.

From there, a 30-minute breakneck ride to the nearest medical facility with a pair of stranger EMT’s – one at the wheel of the flashing ambulance and the other at the helm of my son’s newly hung IV. A battery of doctors and nurses met us at the ER awaiting to examine and ultimately attempt a diagnosis of what had triggered this unusual event.

A neurologist friend and a colleague of my wife was our first call upon returning home. The first recognizable face in a sea of medical strangers. Her personal guidance was wise and measured, her concern genuine. Her professional judgment experienced and prudent.

Within 3 months a second seizure had occurred and then a third during a prescribed EEG. The culprit was identified as a brain tumor. As my near adolescent son approaches puberty, the newest round of brain development this is occurring in his otherwise normal body, is being interfered with. The tumor appears to be short circuiting his brain function and there is significant electrical activity at the site…..all the time.

In the opinion of our neurologist, there is only one man who we should see. He has been a professional colleague of hers for almost 30 years and he is recognized as the pre-eminent surgeon in his field of neurosurgery. And so, we packed our bags to meet a man of whom we have never heard.

And, now, as the door closes behind the retinue of medical attendants that obscure the bare bottom of my hospital-robed son, I wait. And I trust.

I trust the ability, the commitment, the aptitude, the science and the technology. Everything that I now hold onto is not faith in the supernatural, but faith in my fellow man. From the night manager at the hotel in Ocean City, MD to the medical team in New Haven, CT who will now determine the fate of my son’s future, I have relied entirely on trust.

The men and women who will care for my son now I have never met. I rely on them expressly because the man I now trust to perform this surgery says HE trusts this team. The string of trust grows like a web, emanating from focal points out across the landscape: the people I most trust, trust other people. Those people in turn trust others and the web grows. In ever growing concentric circles, my wife and I have built our web of trust.

There are threads that reach back into time to the countless people who developed the all-important MRI, Cat Scan, and stereo-topic surgery technology that made this procedure feasible today. It extends back to the researchers and instructors who transmitted their knowledge and skills to this generation of practitioners. It reaches across continents to where medical instruments are made and where this medical team was educated.

We are not alone in our journey. As he lies on the gurney, ready to breath in the strawberry flavored anesthesia he has requested, it occurs to me that my son has put ALL of his faith in my wife and me. At his tender age, his web of trust has only one focal point: mom and dad.

Will we serve him well? Will we deliver on our promise to care for him as best we can? Will he have a future that allows him to grow and prosper? Will he come to develop his own web of trust among his fellow man? I do not know yet.

For now, I can only wait and be strong in my conviction that I trust my fellow man.