Monday, June 15, 2009

Meeting Dr. Dino

Today I sat around, trying without success to untangle the mess-o-yarn (which is, as I pointed out to Gary, a fitting metaphor for my life), and then went swimming for the first time since I've been here. Swimming felt great, except when I bashed my head against the end of the pool. The last time I did that was the week before Dad died. Tomorrow I leave for NYC, where, as Gary pointed out to me, I may be physically safer.

In the meantime, though, something really cool happened: I got e-mail from #1 Dinosaur saying, "You're in Philly? Want to meet up? It would be fun to put a face to the blog!" (Lest anyone be alarmed for my safety, my sister and I spoke to Dr. Dino on the phone several months ago, after I got an e-mail saying, "Your mom's in the hospital and homesick for pets? How about a visit from my dog?" That plan didn't work out, so we didn't meet in person, but Liz and I were fairly sure we weren't dealing with an axe murderer.)

The upshot of this was that the esteemed doc stopped by the house after dinner, and met Liz and Lloyd and Mom, and patted kitties and ate chocolate. We talked for three solid hours about blogging, writing, healthcare reform, American attitudes towards medicine, end-of-life care, cats, chocolate, family, grief, TV shows, and the challenges of running a personal practice. I can now happily report that #1 Dino is as funny and smart in person as in cyberspace. It was a terrific visit, and I hope we can do it again sometime.

One of the more interesting parts of the discussion was our debate about how to define "medicine." Dr. D. wanted to limit it to the scientific aspects, which would leave out many people on the healthcare team (chaplains, social workers, etc.). I wanted a broader definition. Okay, said Dr. D, what about breaking it into the art and science of medicine? Too blurry a dichotomy, I said. We didn't get the issue settled, but it's interesting food for thought.

Maybe the wider idea I wanted was simply 'healthcare," with science-based medicine a necessary but not sufficient component: true healthcare, in that model, is bigger than mere medicine, as essential as medicine may be. That's the best solution I can suggest right now, anyway. Healthcare incorporates science, art, policy considerations, economics, sociology, and any number of other disciplines. This leaves Dr. D's initial definition intact, but also makes medicine only part of the picture.

Anyway, it was a lively discussion, good for the brain. After Dr. D left, I watched TV with Mom and Liz. Tomorrow I'll do laundry and, i hope, swim again -- without mishap this time! -- before catching my train for Part II of the Great Adventure: New York City!

Stay tuned!


  1. Anonymous7:40 AM

    Head meets pool wall sounds like a definite OUCH!

    Sorry to hear you've been having mishaps.

    I'm the Anon who posted my opinion that "Chaplains Rock!", so you can weigh my prejudices into the following comment:

    I've been told that I have a high tolerance for pain. I don't have any abstract way of evaluating such statements, but I have come to the very definite conclusion that rhetorical systems that separate the mind from the body are, frankly, a bit schizophrenic. If my brain were ever to be separated from my body, both would die; crucial messages are sent back and forth, and the absence of these signals can lead to critical illnesses in too many ways to count.

    One (of many) of the reasons I value chaplains (and prayer, and my faith) is that calming my mind under stressful health situations helps me deal with pain and helps halt negative feedback loops that can actually push my body into more serious illness. I'm lucky, though, to have doctors who are so attuned to my affect (and who constantly reassure me that it's okay to feel a little crazy when my life spins out of control due of a serious illness).

    I don't mean to criticize Dr. D. I know there's a difficult line for doctors to tread between the extremes of alternative "alternative medicine" and those who see the human body as a machine made of meat. I'm just saying that the more I know about medicine, the more I am convinced that medicine doesn't know all there is to know -- and that chaplains, social workers, and people who simply express plain human kindness can address pain that painkillers can't.

  2. The pleasure was all mine. <3


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