I sustained my injury in the middle of Saturday night. The ER doc referred me to an orthopedic specialist who I saw the next Wednesday. She looked at the x-rays that had been sent to her from the ER and re-wrapped the arm – making no attempt to set anything. “You can see here how the bone is shattered. If you are willing to do it, what it needs is surgery – plates and screws.” I was not surprised at the need for surgery – the ER doc had called it a “nasty break”. When I checked out of the office, they scheduled me for surgery on Friday nine days out. I could see no reason for waiting that long – they had not set anything, nothing was going to be healing – except that they just didn’t have an OR appointment available any earlier.
That was Wednesday. Friday around 12:30 p.m., I found a voice message that had slipped by me in my phone. Actually I realized that when I got up that morning I had not turned my ringer back on. “This is Charlotte from Dr. Riley’s office. We have had a surgery time come open on Monday morning and wonder if you could take it. Call me back at extension 2561.” I was thrilled and immediately disturbed. “That message has been sitting in my voice mail for 90 minutes. That’s a long time – this doesn’t feel good.”
Charlotte didn’t answer at x2561 and, since this was her direct line, I could think of nothing else to do but just to leave her a message. And I felt terrible! “This is the last working day before Monday. They are going to lose a lot of income if they don’t fill that OR slot. They immediately, after leaving the message for me, continued to work their way down the list of other people who might want to move their surgery forward. And almost certainly they will find someone who, like me, sees no point in waiting around until Friday. And all because I never turned my ringer on. This is all fucked up – and it’s all my fault!”
About ten minutes later, Charlotte called me back. I barely let her say hello before blurting out,
“Did I get the spot?”
“Yes, you got it.”
I didn’t believe it. “But you left your message 90 minutes ago.”
“That’s alright – you got it.”
“But that doesn’t make sense. You have to fill that spot – it’s too expensive to let it go.”
“But it’s your spot.”
My mind was racing. I didn’t say, but I rapid-fire thought, “That’s not the way it works. Medicine is a business – it’s about making money. This isn’t about my spot – it’s about getting someone in that OR bed, now, before the weekend.”
“We saved it for you.”
I didn’t cry on the phone with Charlotte, but this is the point in the story where I always cry, even now ten days later.
“We saved it for you because you needed it the most.”
It wasn’t about me screwing up or not screwing up. Their decision was not based about getting a body in a bed. They risked losing that lucrative OR slot because Charlotte wanted to do the right thing – wanted to give it to the patient who needed it the most.
In that moment not only was I forgiven, but the doctors were forgiven. In that moment, there was nothing but forgiveness.