Responses to "With the Help of a Healing Hand"
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE?
Dr. Sarah Jones’s courageous recovery may actually enhance the superb surgical skills she possessed before her accident on August 8, 2009.
Jones was the fortunate recipient of excellent care provided by the surgical team who reattached her fingers and her occupational therapist who helped her to make them work again.
As a result of this role change, which cast her as the patient, she may now further appreciate the inestimable value of her skills to both other accident victims and first-year medical students who will one day work beside her in the OR.
Evan Thompson, Arts'77, Toronto, ON
Thank you to the Review and to Dr. Sarah Jones for sharing the story of her healing. Her perseverance, the skill and care of her therapists, doctors, surgeons, and nurses, and the loving support of her husband and colleagues lifted my spirits once again and renewed my commitment to my calling to provide spiritual care in the health care system.
Though the injuries, the anguish, and the horrors of the losses pale in comparison, as I read Sarah’s story I could not avoid remembering my own encounter with care. Thirty-seven years ago, I lost the use of my left index finger in a practice accident the week of the high school championship football game. The day after the season ended, pain forced me to go to Kingston General Hospital. The attending resident asked me questions about my background (my father immigrated to Canada as a farm worker in 1952 and worked as a draftsman at the time), my present family circumstances (we lived in a small rural community and my previous summer job had been throwing hay bales for local dairy farmers), and my future aspirations (I didn’t have the slightest clue). I don’t suppose I did very well on this pre-treatment survey: I was 16, in pain, and mostly interested in girls and in making party money to celebrate our football championship dominated my mental landscape that day.
“We could send you for surgery,” I was told, “but I don’t think the risks of further damage are warranted by the potential benefits.”
When I inquired, something vague about “limited professional options” was the reply. When I pressed for details as the brash young activist I was back then, the doctor said, “Well, you’re not going to be a brain surgeon, are you?”
I got an x-ray, a splint and four occupational therapy sessions when the splint came off. On my final visit with the doctor, he told me to expect “about 50 per cent” use of the finger “over time,” early onset of arthritis, and wished me luck.
The finger stuck out from my hand like a foreign thing until I decided to teach myself how to play the guitar during my “year off” from my BA, insisting on using the left hand to shape the chords. I’ll never forget the pain as I forced this joint further than it had moved in four years, the anguished prayers (which included forgiving the man who had treated me so callously), and the thrill of success as strength gradually increased in my whole hand. How fortunate we are that things have changed since 1975! How thankful we should be that treatment for hand injuries has developed such capacity in such a short time! And how vigilant we must be that prejudices such as those I experienced are never allowed to determine the course of treatment for anyone in need. As it turned out, the doctor was right about one thing: I never did become a brain surgeon.
Although the pressure on health care resources is constantly increasing, I hope that the medical community of Queen’s University will work to ensure that Sarah Jones’ story is the standard of care for hand injuries, and not mine.
Rev. Ron Bestvater, Artsci'81, Saskatoon, SK
The letter writer is the Chaplain at Lutheran Care Society Hospital in Saskatoon. – Ed.