When You Fall

You probably think I am going to give you a motivational talk on failure.  Maybe you think I am going to tell you how to get back up and keep going.  I’m not.  Today I am going to tell you a story about an amazing man who literally fell.


My brother is a pulmonology/critical care doc.  He is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met.  You know the person that scores 99.9% on standardized tests?  That’s my brother.  He has a heart of gold and fantastic bedside manner.


We were all surprised the day that my brother informed us that he would be taking a year off from his prestigious job to travel the world.  How exciting!  Delayed gratification at its finest.  He had the entire year of travel planned out.  I couldn’t wait to see the pictures.


We were all a bit concerned that he would be going on this adventure alone.  He reassured us that he would be fine.  After all, he would be on a luxury cruise with other eager vacationers.  He promised that he would take group tours only- it would be fine.


Three weeks into his European world tour, we got the phone call.  There was a freak accident.  In Norway, my brother had slipped on some rocks and found himself on the ground.  Both of his knee caps were displaced upward.  He couldn’t move his legs. And of course, he was alone.


My stomach was in knots.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how scared he must be.  I was imagining the horrific pain he was in.  Who came to his rescue?  Was he waiting a long time for help?


Here is the interesting part.  All of the thoughts that I had generated regarding the situation were mine! They weren’t his.  In fact, my brother was as cool as a clam.  He said that he was fine, not in much pain, and he was waiting for an MRI.


The MRI revealed bilateral ruptured patellar ligaments.  I instantly starting thinking that he must be very anxious about how he would get on a plane.  He does not like to fly.  Who would help him?  What if he had to use the bathroom?  How would that work? 


And once again, I was caught in the same scenario.  My thoughts created excess drama.  My brother calmly stated that he would be transported to the USA via Medivac.  Because his legs had to remain straight and immobilized, he was unable to fly domestic.


The doctor at the Norwegian hospital could have operated immediately, however, it was decided that having the repair at home made the most sense.  I was extremely impressed with the care that my brother received.  It made me so proud of my profession.


My alternative thoughts began to quickly relieve my sadness and anxiety.  My brother is brave, not scared.  My brother is surrounded, not alone.  Life is unpredictable, but best to focus on the facts and eliminate the drama.


I called my parents.  I could hear in my dad’s voice how upset he was.  After talking for a few minutes, something amazing happened.  The calming energy that my brother provided for me, allowed me to generate similar positive energy for my dad.  By the end of the conversation, he was laughing.  He was better.  I made him better.


When difficult situations are able to make you a better person, you pay attention to them.  This situation reminded me of several important things.  I am honored to call myself a doctor.  At 3am when I am paged for an emergency, I am thankful that I have the ability to make a difference.


Drama is easily created.  It is also very avoidable.  Stick to the facts.  Decide the emotion that will best serve you, and then generate thoughts that will create the desired emotion.  It’s that simple.


How you think someone must feel is usually not at all how they feel.  So listen to them.  Learn from them.  Accept that we are equipped to handle tough situations.  We don’t have to be scared, or crumble, or be helpless.


I learned a lot today.  Don’t be afraid to live your dream.  Yes, you could fall but you may also fly.  And, if you do fall, then you get to chose how you handle it.  Always get back up again unless both patellar tendons are ruptured.  And, most importantly, if you are planning a trip to Norway….watch out for the rocks….they are slippery as hell.