Being a Family Physician means I am uniquely blessed. Everyday of my life I have opportunities to help people. Sometimes with medicines, sometimes with my hands, frequently with my words, for people do not come in with just physical needs. They come with spiritual and emotional needs as well. As a Christian who has studied the Bible for years, I have learned that if I pay attention- if I listen carefully, I can see the truths of Scripture played out in their lives, and apply the truths of God to help them along their way. Usually, the interactions teach me as well.
Over the years, these interactions have become a part of stories around the dinner table, illustrations for sermons and conversations with friends. A recurring refrain as of late is that these stories should be shared, that others could be blessed if these stories were more widely shared. But how? Well apparently there is this thing called the internet, where you can write your stories and people all over the world can read them! So hear we are. I pray that some will find these stories a blessing, and that I am correctly responding to the quiet voice in my head and heart urging me to write.
Speaking of quiet voices... when I first went into medial practice, my partner called me aside one day and told me, “Bart, listen to your gut. It will save lives.” He was right.
Last week a patient came in complaining of soreness in her hip and right leg. She had a history of back pain in the past, and she said she felt as if the pain was burning in nature (which is usually a pinched nerve). As we talked she shared that the pain had been going on for about 10 days, and had started after she had flown home from out of state.
Since the pain she described sounded radicular (doctor talk for “from a nerve in the back”) I proceeded to do an exam for back pain. Her back was non tender, and her strength and reflexes were all normal. I do not always have back patients lie down so I can check if they have pain when I raise a leg, but I did this time. No pain.
Then came the gut, the little voice- “check her legs.” So I did. I started feeling around her legs for any tenderness. The “Ow!” came as I felt in her upper calf. This was unexpected...
The conversation in my head began-
“Could she have a blood clot in her calf?”
“No- it has been 10 days!'
“But she was on an airplane!”
“But it was a short flight!”
The debate raged in my mind. Finally, I decided to listen to that voice of concern in my head, the uneasiness in my gut. I told her I doubted that it was serious, but that there was a small chance that there could be a blood clot in her leg, and so to be safe I was going to order an ultrasound.
Sure enough... she had a blood clot.
In thinking about her case, and in other cases where gut feelings and quiet voices have made a difference, I am reminded of how God “speaks” to us. At least for me, I do not hear an audible voice giving me guidance. Instead, there is a sense in my spirit, a quiet voice, urging me in the right direction. (Sadly, it seems that often it is a voice urging me not to go in the direction I am heading!)
And just as my partner taught me in medicine, I do well to train myself to hear that voice, to pay attention to it and not dismiss it. It may not always make sense, it often will suggest a seemingly more difficult way, but “listening” to God's leading can prevent a world mistakes and pain!