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On the Side - November 2016

Doctors: The Worst Patients
Sharon Chatwell

They say that doctors make the worst patients; and I have to agree. They do. I can say this without fear of recrimination, because, you see – I am a physician myself. 

My husband and I married while we were both in medical school, and after four children we decided that my “patients” would be at the house and his would be at the office. Over the years, I’ve taken care of everyone; children, friends, pets, friends’ pets, etc. And, of course, whenever my husband is ill, I take care of him as well. This is an important job.  As I once told a room full of doctors’ wives, “We are the people, who take care of the people, who take care of everyone else.”  

So, I can state categorically that doctors make the worst patients, and I can prove it. I have documented case histories that would make your hair stand on end. For example: The case of the ENT, whose wife caught him in the bathroom trying to sew up his own thumb after a serious disagreement with a table saw. Or the time my own husband tried to go back to work at his Fellowship on Monday after “slipping a disc” on Saturday. I can still hear myself saying, “WHEN they send you home, I will come and pick you up.” He called sheepishly at 10 AM saying that he was ready and could I come get him. Humph! Doctors!

Unfortunately for me, the shoe is now on the other foot; as I currently find myself in the role of patient. In a few days, God willing, I will be sitting up in my bed recuperating from a much needed operation on my heel. They tell me the surgery isn’t too bad. (By the way, did you know that the definition of a “minor surgery” is one that someone else is having?)

Anyway the post-op period of my surgery is supposed to be the challenging part. It includes 6 weeks of non-weight bearing (or as my husband likes to say, “That means NO weight bearing!”) He describes his job during my upcoming recovery as part husband/part warden. There is already a prayer chain started… for him!

So, I am to be a patient, and I’m not looking forward to it. Perhaps the old saying is true, and doctors really do make the worst patients. But let’s face it, it’s tough to hand yourself over to someone else and say, “Here, just cut out what you think I don’t need.” It would be hard for anyone. 

And it’s humiliating to have to depend on other people to take care of you while you heal up. It occurs to me that I’m going to have to be extremely humble and patient to survive all of this. (I think my kids are secretly looking forward to that!)

All of this reminds me of what it is like to submit to the “spiritual surgery” of the Holy Spirit, when God is working to excise something undesirable in your life. In my case, that thing is usually pride. The hardest part is that just when you think they’ve “got it all” it reappears in some other area of your life, and you have to go through another treatment of some kind to try to get rid of it entirely.

Jesus is often called the Great Physician. The Bible recounts many stories of Him healing people with every sort of illness and impediment. And, of course, He even raised the dead back to life! But more than all of that, He bore our sin and shame on the cross, so that we could be saved. 1 Peter 2:24 tells us, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

We can ask God to deal with our weakness and infirmities. We can come to Him for cleansing of sins and for renewal. Psalm 51:1-2, 10 says: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

There is also no doubt that God is continuing to work in the lives of those who have accepted Jesus as Savior.  Philippians 1:6 reminds us “… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

I have a feeling that this upcoming experience of having surgery and being off my feet (literally) for a few weeks is going to be a very humbling experience, as I will have to depend on others for almost everything. (I should add that it is so kind and caring of my family to be willing to take this on with me. They are truly a blessing to me.)

In the same way it is often difficult for us to submit ourselves fully to the Master’s Hand. To let Him heal. To let Him teach. To humble ourselves before The Great Physician, and let Him finish His good work in us. 

Let’s all try to be good patients.

Sharon is a physician spouse living in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. It is there that she plans to spend the next few weeks, mostly on the second floor of her house, looking out of her bedroom window. She covets your prayers for a speedy recovery and for her husband’s general well-being! 

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