"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
November 09, 2015
The Elephant and the Hospital
by Kathryn H. Kidd

A couple of weeks ago I described a fun trip we had taken, but I didnít talk about how it ended, which was not as fun. When Fluffy and I were driving to Atlantic City we saw a farmerís market just as we crossed into New Jersey. We stopped to take some pictures and saw some of the prettiest tomatoes we ever did see. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I am not a fan of tomatoes. I have never liked tomatoes. But these tomatoes had us fantasizing, and Fluffy and I made a point of stopping on the drive home to pick some up.

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Some tomatoes can make a tomato-lover out of the most jaded tomato-hater.

Fluffy picked up six tomatoes, plus a basil plant and a big basket of yams. We decided to make a whole bunch of BLT sandwiches, plus some insalatas caprese. So after Fluffy got in the car again, I got a pen and paper and started making a grocery list. Next we only had to determine where we would stop on the way home in order to get the best baguettes and the nicest mozzarella cheese.

As we crossed the bridge into Delaware, however, my body started giving me different marching orders. I got a sudden and severe case of the chills, and the chills always mean one thing: I need to get to the hospital, fast.

Instead of choosing the best supermarket, the question quickly became whether to go to my regular hospital or the Reston Hospital, which was closer. The Reston Hospital won out. We didnít even stop at home to offload the tomatoes and our other trip treasures first.

Iím never exactly sure why Iím in the hospital, mind you Ė except for the fact that my body loves infections, and seems to want to collect them all. The word I heard most often this time was ďsepsis,Ē but I also heard ďcellulitisĒ more than once.

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A poster in the hospital hallway happily proclaimed that sepsis was the infection du jour. It also pointed out that I was on a countdown once I got it, and perhaps it was a good thing we had headed straight for the hospital without dallying at home first.

My infectious diseases specialist (and itís embarrassing to say Iíve had the same guy for three years now, who follows me around when Iíve had one infectious disease after another) said, ďItís goot you know to come in fast, because fen you get sick you go downhill qvick.Ē

How right he is.

I checked in on Wednesday. By Sunday, I was going stir-crazy. Those tomatoes were calling my name, to say nothing of the time I was losing with Fluffy at home, and the work I should have been doing but that was being done by others. So when I was promised a Monday discharge, I was pretty excited.

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The hospital sandwiches I was served were a pathetic substitute for the Fluffy-made BLTs I had envisioned.

Of course, promises made in hospitals are made to be broken.

Monday I awoke with a hacking cough. I do not cough gently. My coughs come up from my toes. I waited to get discharged. When I did not get discharged, letís just say Fluffy did not take the news gracefully.

Although Fluffy did not take the news with good cheer, the doctors were more than excited to keep me. Whichever doctor was on charge that day decided to shoot the medical big guns at me, and I was suddenly bombarded with a pharmaceutical salvo that was the equivalent of nuclear war.

My body responded in the only way it knew how. It came up with a whole new host of symptoms, and then the doctor who was in charge the next day responded with his favorite drug, which (of course) was administered in addition to the drug that had been prescribed on Monday.

Every day I got worse and worse and worse. The doctors just saw me as getting sicker and sicker and sicker, so they kept piling one drug on top of another. I was getting closer and closer to death.

Fluffy and I had a different perspective altogether. We decided that just maybe it was the drugs that were making me sicker, and that if I didnít get out of there soon, I was only going to leave that hospital in a pine box.

I didnít finally escape until Friday ó nine whole nights after I had first checked in. By then I had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a lifelong heart problem (or so the cardiologist would have me believe). Fluffy and I suspect that as soon as the drugs are out of my system, all these weird things are going to go away and Iím going to be back to normal, or at least what passes for normal on Planet Kathy.

As far as hospitals go, I really liked the one in Reston. I had a great bed in a private room, and the nursing staff was stellar. I think it is my new favorite hospital, although I donít want to return there any time soon. But I longed to have a doctor who looked at Kathy as a whole person, and not as a heart or a set of lungs or an immune system. It just didnít happen.

If there had been a patient advocate who looked at me as me, he or she could have looked at my chart and said, ďHereís whatís going on. You put her on prednisone for her lungs, and her heart went out of rhythm. Prednisone can cause atrial fibrillation. Letís get her off the prednisone, and see if the a-fib goes away. Thereís no need for panic here. This isnít a lifelong situation.Ē

But there wasnít a patient advocate. Instead there was a lung doctor prescribing prednisone and a heart doctor panicking and deciding I had a permanent, debilitating heart problem. It took Kathy going home and checking the internet to see that prednisone, sure enough, can cause atrial fibrillation.

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What I needed was a mad Dr. Fluffy who looked at the whole Kathy, instead of just my heart or my lungs.

Why didnít the hospital know that? Because doctors have tunnel vision, thatís why. They are trained in their own area of expertise, and they donít have time to focus on the big picture.

As far as the cardiologist was concerned, the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation was the important thing. How I got it was immaterial. He was interested in what was happening with my heart. The rest of Kathy was a bag oí flesh surrounding my heart ó something that said hi, and that answered his questions as he asked them. We got along just fine, but the heart was the bottom line as far as he was concerned.

The longer I stayed in that hospital, the more I felt like the elephant in that old poem, ďThe Blind Men and the Elephant (a Hindoo Fable),Ē by John Godfrey Saxe:

The Blind Men and the Elephant
A Hindoo Fable

I.

IT was six men of Indostan
†To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
†(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
†Might satisfy his mind.

II.

The First approached the Elephant,
†And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
†At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! ó but the Elephant
†Is very like a wall!"

III.

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
†Cried:"Ho! ó what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
†To me 't is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
†Is very like a spear!"

IV.

The Third approached the animal,
†And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
†Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
†Is very like a snake!"

V.

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
†And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
†Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'T is clear enough the Elephant
†Is very like a tree!"

VI.

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
†Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
†Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
†Is very like a fan!"

VII.

The Sixth no sooner had begun
†About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
†That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
†Is very like a rope!"

VIII.

And so these men of Indostan
†Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
†Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
†And all were in the wrong!

MORAL.

So, oft in theologic wars
†The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
†Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

There were a lot of blind doctors in that hospital. All of them worked hard on me, but I donít think any of the doctors saw the whole elephant, even though I was lying there in the bed for all of them to observe.

It isnít just doctors who fail to see the whole picture, however. We are all guilty of selective vision, as 1 Corinthians 13 tells us:

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Selective vision is part of the human picture. We look at others and think we know what is going on in their lives, but we are woefully ignorant. We judge them based on our limited understanding, but we only see bits and pieces. We never see the whole thing.

It is only God who sees us completely. It is only God who knows us from the inside out. The next time I am tempted to nod my head sagely and think I know what is going on in the mind or the heart of another, I hope I remember the doctors in the hospital ó each of whom looked at a small piece of me and thought he knew the whole.


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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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