Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Get the Plank Out!

It was just an ordinary day in the Emergency Room until the trauma call came. A 5 car motor vehicle accident. My job as a social worker was to stand outside the trauma room, out of everyones way and wait for family to arrive or a wallet with information to contact family. I would then wait for the family to arrive and be there to comfort them, help them obtain information about their loved one, and then walk with them through what would undoubtedly be a traumatic experience.

There were multiple seriously injured people.  It was the worst motor vehicle accident I had ever seen come through the Emergency Room.  Standing on the outskirts of the commotion, I could often learn a lot. On this night, a family of 5 was passing through the state in route to a residency interview. Both adults were instantly killed, and each of their three children came through the Emergency Room. There was a four year old with multiple injuries, though not serious. A three year old that was pronounced brain dead and became an organ donor. There was a tiny 18 month old who was a CPR in progress when she arrived but her injuries were too severe and she died.

A truck driver was also very seriously injured, but his injuries were not life threatening. A man in his early 20's was the last to arrive. He was disoriented and combative. He needed surgery for internal bleeding. I could sense the tension in the Emergency Room. The staff, understandably, was dealing with a great deal of emotion especially considering that there were children involved, but this was different. They began to be short with this man which was not characteristic of their usual professionalism.  I soon learned that he was the driver of the car that caused the accident and his breath smelled of alcohol, and this fact combined with his combativeness and disorientation caused everyone to assume that he was a drunk driver.

The next morning, I read the patient chart. He was a newly diagnosed diabetic who had suffered a diabetic shock (ketoacidosis) while driving. He was a newlywed with a beautiful wife. He was a nice young man who had the misfortune of having a medical emergency while driving and as a result, his life would never be the same.

Ketoacidosis can be smelled on a person's breath. This is due to acetone, a direct byproduct of the spontaneous decomposition of acetoacetic acid. It is often described as smelling like fruit or nail polish remover. It is easy to mistake the smell as alcohol.  Ketoacidosis can occur when a person with diabetes becomes dehydrated.  

This experience was a HUGE lesson for me in not judging others without having all of the facts.  Over the years this has come to mind time and again when I have found myself making an assumption about someone else.  I wonder how often I have missed out on a possible friendship or opportunities to help someone or show compassion simply because I formed my opinions of someone or something without having all the details?  Pity!

Luke 6:42
How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

At times, I clearly have a plank in my eye.  I have been guilty of jumping to conclusions with those I love as well as those I don't know.  

Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you don’t have time to love them.” Isn't that the truth?  It's time wasted.  After all, it is the ultimate commandment to love others.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

Jesus help me to open my heart to the people I come across and the experiences I am given.  Help me to love first and to not form opinions and judgments.  Help me to concentrate on removing the plank from my own eye before I ever begin to point out the speck in the eye of someone else.  Help me to practice love and acceptance with those closest to me first whom I tend to most harshly judge.  


Unknown said...

This is a great lesson. I find myself reminding my son not to jump to conclusions about another person's motives ... but I don't always take my own advice.

How are you doing?

Heather said...

wow-powerful example! So easy to even read scripture or hear a sermon and think "so and so sure could use this!". I do it all the time!

Karin Katherine said...

How true this is and humbling. It served us well in meeting with and ministering to the heart of our daughter's birth father.

There are hurting people all around us. We need to love them where they're at.

Rachel said...

thank you gina. i am always anxious to learn the wisdom experienced by others. i am thankful for mother teresa sharing so much, so simply. a great quote by her that i will try to remember

Dawn Camp said...

Fascinating story with a valuable lesson!

Finally Exhaling said...

Thank you so much, this was so inspirational and such a reminder. I wish everyone understood this. It brought tears to my eyes.

Melissa Campbell said...

We all struggle with this. I pray always for God to let me see as He sees. Thank you for sharing your heart so beautifully. Blessings.

Wander said...

Wow! Great lesson!
Thank you so much for reminding me about assumption!
As a HUMAN who encounters many other HUMAN BEINGS everyday....this is super advice!

I don't want to maybe I should just stop judging altogether.

Anonymous said...

great story. but, as an emergency physician who works in a very busy inner city ED, i can tell you that most impaired drivers whose breath smells fruity are usually drunk, not in DKA. it's not judgmental to think horses, not zebras, when hearing hoofbeats. and i hate to say it, but that is how my years of experience treating all kinds of people, at fault and not, have led me to think.

just my .02

Anonymous said...

Sorry ER doc but as another doc I have found that the Er is a very judgemental place. usually right but sometimes terribly wrong.
Think about it.

Willy said...

I think the point of the story is that the ED staff was being short and unprofessional and using personal judgment to affect the way they were treating that patient (either intentionally or not). When the difference is life or death I would hope the ED staff would treat every patient with all of their best skills regardless of how the situation looks from the outside. When you start letting what you see from the outside (or hear) affect the way you are treating patients then you are playing god, not just doctor.

And I totally agree about the hoofbeats, 9999 times out of 10000 that driver is drunk, not in DKA.

Great story and interesting conversation!

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