Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I sat dejectedly at the nurses station with my head buried in a chart to hide my tears. I felt a hand on my shoulder but didn't look up.

If you practice long enough, Jordan, there will be a small graveyard with your name on it.

I recognized the voice as that of a veteran cardiologist I often worked with.

We never spoke of this again.


It took a moment to integrate the melancholy of the words coming from the pretty young woman who sat on my examining table. Her face was bright and expressive. She neither smiled nor grinned. She spoke evenly without hesitation or stutter.

She recounted the events that changed her life. The morning she, a careless twenty year old, got into her car to drive to school. She would return home a drastically different person.

Of course she hadn't meant any harm. She would never hurt another human least on purpose. Her parents had warned her about drinking and driving. No one ever told her, however, of the dangers of cell phones. After all, she could text with her eyes closed.

She never forgot the feeling of the body as it bounced against her car. The blood that soaked her shoes as she jumped out to investigate. Or the look of the poor child's parents in court.

These are the kind of things that stay with you.


I was fascinated as she continued with her story. I felt not only great sympathy but a strange sense of camaraderie.

After the accident she took stock of her life. She neither granted forgiveness nor wallowed in self pity. But she did change just about everything.

A few years later she was a national spokesperson. She lectured around the country. The loss of one life ignited the courage to save countless others. A young self absorbed child had now become a world citizen.

She transformed her graveyard with its single inhabitant into a lively garden.


As she left I paused momentarily in the examining room. I could hear the phone ringing. The secretary chatted amiably as new patients checked in. The medical assistants scurried back and forth between hallways.

I contemplated that little place carefully buried in the deepest recesses of my soul. How many headstones had accumulated with names that long ago had become unreadable.

Maybe it's time to face my demons.

Maybe it's time for me to do a little landscaping.

1 comment:

Sue Rumack said...

Maybe if people understood the pain their doctors feel for the responsibility they have chosen to accept, they would be more forgiving and accepting of their humanity. Thanks for sharing.