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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Mercy At The Finish Line: Sunday musings…9/4/2022

“If not for the pain, how would we know that we were alive?”

Who uttered this profound statement? Was it Rousseau or Rochefoucauld? I confess that I can neither remember the answer, nor conjure up enough Google-Fu to find it online. Rochefoucauld is famous for “We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others,” which seems somewhat inconsistent. Perhaps it was Rousseau, then. No matter.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my very short encounter with a man who cried “Uncle”. Injured at 20, kept alive by an implantable defibrillator for some 22 years of unremitting pain, Billy Ray had no one to live for. All he knew was pain. He was imprisoned by his pain. Truly an island, he shook the shackles of his torment when he turned off his defibrillator.

For several months now I have had near constant pain that has been bad enough to impose itself on my minute-to-minute consciousness. Not like Billy Ray, mind you, and it’s only been 3 or so months. I am reminded of my friend Steve, one of the nicest, kindest, friendliest humans I’ve been privileged to know. He suffered the same pain from the same cause, but for myriad reasons he chose to carry the burdens of others and did not address his own for many, many months. He, and those closest to him, say that the pain changed him. His general bonhomie declined along with his patience and good cheer. Thankfully, surgery cured his pain. More thankful, still, is that the removal of his pain returned to us the friend we’d come to know and cherish.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the last several months. What makes my situation different is that I have a finish line. I can see ahead to the date when there is a 99% chance that the pain will be alleviated and I will be able to return to a life that is generally free from that type of burden. My time in this bubble has been relatively short, many months shorter than Steve and years shorter than Billy Ray. The finish line has been close enough that I hope I have been able to avoid any change in who I am, with the exception of the physical limitations that I have had that will also be alleviated.

Seeing the finish line ahead has meant hope, which has been a balm to sooth the pain.

My part of the medical world is mostly filled with caring for people whose lives will improve because they received that care. Indeed, that’s part of why I chose ophthalmology in the first place. There is a very small subset of my Dry Eye patients for whom relief is not possible, at least not from me and what I have to offer. This short stay in the dark world of chronic pain has given me a different perspective on that part of my practice. While it is not the same at all, doing what it takes to work through and around pain that does not go away will likely allow me to bring more light to that small part of my practice world.

For me, though, the answer lies just ahead at the finish line. The date is set, and all that remains is a phone call confirming the hour. I have people to live for, people whose misfortunes I will once again be strong enough to carry. Relief awaits at the finish line, along with all of the friends and family members who have been strong enough to bear my misfortune and carry me there.

I’ll see you next week…

One Response to “Mercy At The Finish Line: Sunday musings…9/4/2022”

  1. September 9th, 2022 at 10:44 pm

    David Taylor says:

    Hope the procedure goes fantastic Darrell! In at 7, walking the halls post-lunch!

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