Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hope, Will, and Modern Medicine

I'm following this story because he's a friend of Postacademic's, and because it's the kind of story I follow. His apparently brilliant recovery, so far, though it will be a very long time, is so reminiscent of my cousin's from his bike accident--which I think must have been just about a year ago, as he WALKED out of the hospital at Passover, six months after he arrived and was told he would never walk again, if he survived, which many doubted. Modern medicine has its problems, like everything does, but its power, when effectively operative, is unsurpassed, and I'm greatly thankful for it (not just as my cousin's cousin, but as someone who might very well have died in childbirth without it, but I've told that story too many times).

But there's also something about some people. I know it's a narrative we construct retroactively--my cousin and this guy I don't know seem like the most special of the special, and their recoveries (knock wood) thus become that much more evidence of how special they are--and I know many special people do not survive terrible circumstances, but still...well, I don't know what. I guess it's nice to see that sometimes good things do happen to good people, even if they happen in the aftermath of terrible things. (Oh dear, this is just hopelessly incoherent of me, but it's really all I can say, except that I'm so glad my cousin lived and is home with his children, even though he's still in pain and will never be the same, and I hope this guy's friends and family will be able to say the same, except maybe even better.)


tracyellen said...

I don't know you or your cousin, but I am happy that he has recovered and is home with his family. However, something struck me about your statement - "...and I know many special people do not survive terrible circumstances, but still...well, I don't know what." Yes, this comes from someone who did not get to experience the thrill of watching a special person survive and recover, but one who watched a special person die. I am fascinated at how we view life (and certain people) after such terrible circumstances, whether or not we get the outcome we want.

I want to tell you that not all special people survive, but you already know that. I want to tell you that just because someone survives doesn't make them more special than those who don't, but I know you know that, too. It is so easy to believe in the "good things happen to good people" scenario when we see our loved ones survive. As the title of your post says, we praise "hope, will, and modern medicine" when someone survives, but who/what do we blame when someone doesn't survive? Did the doctors not do enough? Did he/she not have the will to fight back and recover? It's funny how much that outcome can skew our outlooks and beliefs.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Excellent post...

postacademic said...

Hey - thanks for writing about Todd. It really does sound like he's coming home soon. One difficult aspect of his whole situation is that he's in Amsterdam and not Oakland - and that his family and community are all here and not there. (Although many people are heroically going over there to help). I'm just hoping that something about Oakland, and having his mom with him in person, and home in general helps him reknit his neural pathways. That - and all the people doing prayer and energy work for him, which I'd usually roll my eyes at, but something about terrible circumstances and our powerlessness within them seems to bring out an instinct towards indirect or occulted means of helping. And didn't they do some study that indicated that prayer did seem to help people in the hospital? (but how such a study would operate, and operate ethically, I have no idea).