Thursday, October 6, 2011


Doctors: who needs them? Duh, we all do. Even Steve Jobs did, after a futile attempt to avoid them, at least allopaths, the "conventional" ones. Like Melville's Bartleby, we "would prefer not to," in the same way we would prefer, say, never to get sick. As Jobs himself said, we "want to go to heaven without having to die," the way we try to avoid more trivial inconveniences in life. Heavy, large, slow computers, for instance.

Jobs learned; I have learned, though not through mortal combat as he did. A medication became toxic and decided to attack my brain, kidneys, major muscle groups and other innocent victims like my sense of balance and ability to speak clearly. A medication, mind you, something devised to help those of us suffering from a mental illness, manic depression. Of course, I helped by rebelling against lithium's side-effects and getting off it with inappropriate suddenness. Two weeks of hell followed, then two weeks in the hospital, and now recuperation.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in my adopted hometown, has built an enormous and interconnected complex of hospitals, in which I spent time shuttled among at least three. From one room, my favorite, I had a view that suggested a castle keep standing watch over a magnificent parade of clouds, disconnected from any terrestrial reference. I floated--when I managed not to fall off a chair and raise the ire of my nursing staff and everybody else who watched it all on a patient surveillance camera feed--in what I have heard described by New Yorkers as "the best place in America to get sick."

I cannot claim a fortune comparable to Job'; I have no money at all. UNCH's staff knew this. In fact, a financial aid officer started working with me during my stay and continues to do so. This serves their interest, of course, but it also serves mine in that she has introduced me to sources of help of which I had known nothing.

A university town such as Chapel Hill--a great university town, and I did not go to school here--attracts smart and gifted people, and more than my share of them cared and still care for me as both an in- and out-patient. What did I do to deserve this? Nothing more than something very stupid. Think if I lived in the boonies somewhere, or in an impoverished country. The next time you want to challenge traditional medicine--and I had my moments even in this hospitalization--remember the graces of my care by e.m.t's and nurses and doctors and physical therapists mostly there for the right reasons, and my outcome, walking with trekking poles, but walking, unlike when I entered in an ambulance. Steve Jobs died in the hands of Western medicine, but he lived unexpected years in that same care.

Chapel Hill
October 6, 2011

1 comment:

  1. Wow. that is a very powerful post. I hope you're now owning the health issues that plagued you and that you have a speedy recovery. Take Care