Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hospital Experience #14: David - Intention

This is the fourteenth in a series of posts on a recent experience at Ochsner Hospital - having a cardiac catheter ablation procedure to correct a heart arrhythmia. These posts describe and reflect on various aspects of the hospital experience. This fourteenth post will reflect on David's generous helpfulness.

David was especially helpful to me in these areas. He kept me in his thoughts and prayers. He offered me encouragement all the way up through hospital day. He listened deeply to me. He maintained a very positive attitude. He set aside an entire day and night to pick me up from the hospital on the day after the procedure and to keep an eye on me during my first day and night back home. As things fell out, this last wasn't needed because the ablation part of the procedure was not performed - the source of my arrhythmia turned out to be located in a place that made it non-ablatable. Since the ablation was not performed, I didn't need to stay overnight in the hospital for monitoring but was taken home the same day by Merry and was fine on my own.

Although David did not go through the physical actions of picking me up from the hospital or staying with me for a day and a night, I still consider this to be something that he did for me - because of his intention. David fully intended to do those things and had set aside an entire day and night to do them. As far as intention is concerned, David DID those things for me. None of us ever considered that there would be an unexpected change in plan at the last minute when my arrhythmia turned out to be non-ablatable.

This makes me think of a story that I've heard a number of times in different contexts, so it's likely to be an urban legend - nonetheless, it does make an important point. The story (or urban legend) opens with a little boy whose blood is a perfect match for his sister, who needs a blood transfusion to save her life. When asked if he is willing to give blood for his sister, the little boy remains silent for a time and then nods. Accordingly, blood is taken from him, after which he seems unusually withdrawn. When asked how he is doing, the little boy replies that he is wondering when he will start to die.

It turns out that the little boy thought that removing his blood to give to his sister meant that he would lose all his blood and die. When asked to give blood, the little boy thought of his love for his sister and decided that, yes, he was willing to die for her to live. In intention, this little boy had not just given blood - he had given his life for his sister.

When a person fully intends to do something for a friend, makes all the preparations for doing it, and sets aside the time to do it - but then is prevented at the last minute from doing it - I would say that this person has DONE the planned helpful action for the friend.

Not only did David provide this practical assistance in intention, but it was also clear that he was looking forward to doing so. David let me know that he was actually anticipating the pleasure of picking me up at the hospital and then spending twenty-four hours with me. He was enjoying the thought of talking with me, preparing food for me, or working quietly on his own projects at my place while I slept or rested - whatever was needed. This was an important part of David's gift - knowing that he would enjoy the giving.

In addition, David was especially helpful with his positive attitude. He kept reminding me that a good way to approach hospital day was to relax, think of the wealth of knowledge and skill of my doctor and medical team, and put myself into their competent hands, realizing that they know what they are doing and will take care of me. In this way, David helped me to remain calm in the weeks and days leading up to hospital day.

Besides this, David's depth of listening and sharing has been immeasurably helpful to me in processing thoughts, feelings, and insights about the hospital experience.

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