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Catalysts for Life

Catalysts for Life

    Dr. Alfred Sette, father of one of my groomsmen, claimed as he spoke to our Hi-Y meeting in the spring of 1949 that patients will improve 85% of the time no matter what the doctor prescribes and will not improve 10% of the time no matter what the doctor prescribes.  It's the other 5% of the time on which an MD builds his reputation.

    My friend and fellow Bible student, Elias Oweis, general practitioner of the medical arts, provided me with a larger context for Dr. Sette's observation.  When someone in our Sunday morning circle hinted at what Elias thought was an aggravated assessment of the doctor's role in healing, he insisted that doctors are only a couple of pages ahead of the rest of us in the book of healing arts.

    And, of course, we (those of us, at least who have heard a lot of sermons) know the modest MD's testimony, that God does the healing; the doctor just lends a helping hand.

    Having recently experienced firsthand (I should say "firstknees") the skill of the medical profession I am ready, willing, and eager to confirm all of the above.

    To begin with, what amazes me, fills me with constant wonder as I count my own blessings, life, this life inside each of us, is a powerfully resurgent thing.  I still have difficulty believing that my orthopedist did his own better Pieta on my knees with chisel and saw; yet, for all the trauma, I was standing a day later, walking a week later, and, I anticipate, dancing two months later.  My grandsons, measuring me on the day I returned home, observed without prompting, "Pa, you're taller."  Life rises, returns stronger, will not be denied, overcomes obstacles, triumphs with every opportunity.

    And that's the doctor's role, nurses too, along with the entire cadre of medical professionals: to assist the life in us to rise.

    My college classmates who entered the medical profession (including my junior year roommate, a San Diego orthopedist) spent endless hour in science labs.  They were among the brightest students in the college.  From the outside, their preparation seemed to stress logic, objectivity, scientific method, and flesh and bones realities.  Yet what I discovered (and probably should long have known) with bilateral knee surgery is the art in the medical arts. Imagination and intuition are as indispensable to an MD as logic and reasoning.

    The orthopedist sat me down in front of the Xray illuminator.  The screen displayed my new knees in black and white. Smack dab in the center were two pair of bright white bones, exactly symmetrical: my titanium implants.  I can still see them in my mind's eye.  No Grecian urn, no statue of David, no creation by Calder will ever be as aesthetically appealing to me as Dr. Schutzer's implants.  His four hours of labor over my badly damaged hinges required a lot more than mathematical exactitude; those hours also required (and received) artistic inspiration.

    Which brings us back to the beginning and Dr. Sette's 5%.  Call it medical artistry, the above and beyond the scientific rigor.  My orthopedist has it.

    Thank God.


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