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To do the impossible

By Dr. Spencer Price He was a precious baby. Of course, all parents think that about their newborn children. So, since I was his daddy and he was my son, it was ok for me to think that. He came early. And he was small, the result of a heart condition I didn’t know about until the day he was born. But, that didn’t matter. To me, he was perfect, and precious, and sweet, and I would, as the old saying goes, ‘move Heaven and Earth,’ to protect him, and to provide for him, and to make him better. But making him better wasn’t to be. God, you see, had another plan for my son so, after giving him to me for 13 months, He took him back. And He took him home. It happened in an emergency room. After receiving the call, I got there as fast as I could. I almost had a wreck along the way. I ran several red lights. I decided if the police tried to stop me, they’d have to chase me to the hospital. Bursting into the exam room, I saw him lying there, a breathing tube in his lungs, his skin pale, his eyes fixed. And I knew. But I tried anyway ‘“ tried everything I could. But nothing worked. And when I knew for sure, I said, ‘Stop.’ The other doctors and nurses backed away slowly and left the room. And I held him for a long time. A part of me died with him that day. I vowed after that to never again walk into an emergency room. How could I? The memories were too fresh, too vivid, too painful. And for years I didn’t. In fact, for years whenever I passed a hospital, I looked the other way. Though doing so was extremely difficult, I managed to continue seeing patients in my office but I absolutely refused to go anywhere near a hospital for any reason. Then came Iraq ‘“ the summer of 2005. Three years to the very day that my son died, May 22, I boarded a plane and headed to war. I was assigned to an infantry unit in a forward area. There was a small field hospital on our compound about the size of a two-car garage. Wounded soldiers were evacuated directly to us from the battlefield via ground transport ‘“ HUMVEEs, Bradley fighting vehicles, M1-Abrams tanks, whatever was available. My job was to stabilize the wounded soldiers using whatever means available to me and then MEDEVAC them by helicopter to a field hospital a few miles to the north. Several weeks into this my first combat rotation, I heard through the grapevine that the emergency room at the field hospital needed help dealing with the high number of casualties arriving day and night. I thought about it for a long time. I thought about my vow to never again enter another ER. And, of course, I thought about my son. I hadn’t been in an emergency room in more than three years by then. What would happen? What would I do? Could I handle it? Could I stay focused on the mission and not be distracted by the memories of watching my son die in my arms that terrible day? And then it hit me. It wasn’t about me. It was about wounded soldiers. It was about life and death. It was about something much bigger than me and my sufferings. It was this realization that allowed me to walk through those ER doors in that field hospital that day. And I coped and I endured. And I helped others in need. And, in time, it got a little better, and I got a little better. There was a time I earnestly believed I would never ever enter another emergency room. In fact, I believed that, for me, doing so would be literally impossible. But it wasn’t. And it isn’t as for the last six years I’ve worked fulltime in an emergency room. The point of this recollection is that what I once thought was for me an impossible task, in the end, wasn’t. Such is the same for all of us regarding that which we think impossible to achieve or overcome. Maybe it’s time that helps. Or maybe circumstance. Mostly, I think, that above all, it’s the human spirit, wounded though it may be, that allows us to do the impossible.

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