Flirting With Death

22_Dr. David Tucker in operating scrubs FB.jpeg

The simple pleasures of life can be more appreciated and accentuated when one confronts a serious and morbid experience. For example, a beautiful sunrise, a conversation with friends or loved ones, the satisfaction of a job well done, preparing for the day independently, or even waking up alert one more time. 

As a senior resident in ophthalmology, I faced such a life-threatening challenge. In 1972, I was admitted to a university hospital in Miami with an acute and undiagnosed illness of progressive paralysis and with nothing but uncertain medical options. There were no existing MRI’s or CAT scans, and all the attending physicians had conflicting opinions. I chose to follow the advice of one medical expert from the department of neurology who explained to me and my family that his unorthodox treatment would either stabilize or cure my paralysis, or possibly kill me outright! He even described to my wife among the several outcomes that a life in a respirator was a possibility.

That night I laid in bed with a tracheotomy surgical kit at the ready in case my breathing became incapacitated. 

Upon awakening the next morning, I looked out my window to a welcoming and beautiful sunny day. However, at the windowsill was my hospital roommate, a young resident from neurology who just stared at me. He had been admitted for metastatic melanoma and was undergoing treatment. So exhilarated that I was breathing on my own, I spontaneously exclaimed to him my joy at the sight of a simple sunny day. “Only for you,” was his sad and melancholy response. 

Light can have different meanings for various people, but for me, light is part of “creation” and the beginning of a new and positive day.