Dr. James Pruden
When I used to be younger, I used to be informed, as have been many of you, that I needed to “be patient.”
It would possibly come after a query like “Are we there yet?” or, whereas standing on the Christmas tree ready for some errant member of the family to get out of mattress, it might need been “Can I open my presents now?”
In that point of my life, I believed being affected person simply meant I needed to kind of “chill out.” When I seemed it up within the dictionary (in truth, after I “Googled it”) I discovered a bit extra ominous definition: “Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
I contracted COVID in early March, originally of the East Coast expertise. In reality, I used to be one of the very first admitted to my hospital for this situation.
I say “my hospital” as a result of I’ve labored at St. Joseph’s for practically 40 years as an emergency doctor, and have discovered it to be a wondrous expertise.
To say I used to be ravaged by this sickness, could be an understatement. Of the 31 days I spent on the intensive care unit, 18 of them have been spent on a ventilator. I misplaced 80 kilos, and couldn’t even flip over in mattress by myself. But extra intense than the loss of weight (I wanted to lose some) and the loss of energy, was the by no means ending consciousness that I couldn’t get sufficient air.
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I turned the poster little one for IMPATIENCE after I needed to lie flat for my second CT scan, which occurred simply earlier than my second intubation. Lying flat made respiratory so troublesome that I bear in mind screaming on the technicians to please, please hurry. It was the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing sheer terror.
By the time I used to be being discharged for rehab, I might nearly feed myself and brush my hair. Fortunately, I’m principally bald headed so it didn’t take a lot effort to do this.
So what does this need to do with patience?
When my fiancé Liz and I made preparations for an August wedding ceremony, we have been lively in our St. Mark’s church choir, we obtained pleasure in truly going to the films, and we simply cherished to bounce.
Now it was the center of April, and I used to be oxygen dependent, I had no style for meals, and I might barely stand with help, not to mention dance.
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Although it has now stopped, for some nonetheless unexplained purpose, flesh was peeling from my palms to the diploma that my son Christopher and I joked that I might use them in a zombie apocalypse film.
For me, the guideposts for patience have been embodied within the Serenity Prayer. You know …
“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other”
This was an opportunity for me to embody that prayer.
The trick has all the time been defining that which I might change and that which I couldn’t change.
No one knew why the pores and skin on my palms was flaking. Perhaps it was a response to the 5,000 medicines I had been given. The hope was that it could go away by itself. So I might take heed to The Beatles and “Let It Be” or I might take heed to the film “Frozen” and “Let it Go,” but I had to move on to something else.
In order for me to learn to relearn to stand on my own, to walk, to lift things, the medical team would identify the specific deficit, and the physical therapists would drive me relentlessly to do it “just 10 more times.” I even gave them murderous nicknames, which only seemed to intensify their efforts. They were special.
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As for the oxygen dependence, I was having pain with each deep breath. I knew that pushing the envelope of pain was the way to overcome it, but I was finding that very hard.
It ultimately took a significant turn for the better when Liz and I were trying to dance and something terribly funny happened. Suffice it to say that I was laughing so deeply I was forced to take deep breaths in spite of the pain.
So as far as patience goes, I think one must strive to identify the things in their control, and work hard to make them happen.
More importantly, one must accept the things that are beyond their control and let the fates do as they will. The hard part is knowing which is which.
Incidentally, Liz and I danced for four hours at our wedding.
Dr. James N. Pruden is an emergency drugs specialist at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson. This column originally appeared in NorthJersey.com.