Sometimes I envy radiologists. Like Superman, they truly have X-ray vision that can see what lurks below the surface.
In the life of an ophthalmic surgeon, I can’t always see if a bump on the lid is just a bump or if it is a life-threatening cancer. Many times, I have an inkling, but it takes help from the pathologist to make that call.
My super powers in the ophthalmology world are what we can see when we dilate the pupil.
Inside, we can see all manner of wonder. Ischemic vessels indicating hypertension, engorged blood vessels pointing toward diabetes, irregular intraocular tumors raising the red flag of danger.
This seeing below the surface stuff is not just for medicine.
It can happen every day, in all sorts of interactions. But too much of the time, the problem is that we’re too busy to see.
Picture this situation: Your trip to the grocery store…
You’re in a hurry. It’s getting ready to pour down rain and you just want to get in and out, and have your groceries in the trunk before that monsoon hits.
You scurry down the grocery aisles, grabbing what you need. Meanwhile you’re checking a quick recipe on your iPhone and getting texts with last-minute dinner requests.
You find the shortest line and congratulate yourself on your good fortune. Then… you’re stalled.
The gal at the end of the check-out line loading your groceries, the one who is supposed to be helping things along, is s-l-o-w-e-r than you can imagine.
You try to hurry her along. Nothing doin.
It takes you a minute, but now you see something’s wrong with her. She’s moving slow because she’s grabbing her abdomen while she loads your groceries in the cart. There’s a little wince, a pursing of the lips, but her determination keeps her at task. You notice her name tag: Judy.
You can’t help yourself. You do the right thing and ask, “Hey, are you alright, Judy?”
Judy stops. Looks at you, like you might be her long lost cousin. She gives a forced smile. And then she shakes her head.
“No. Not really. ‘Been hurting pretty bad all morning,” says Judy.
It’s her right quadrant. You remember a little, enough to know that it could be appendicitis, and call over to her manager on the other aisle. “She’s hurting. I think she might need to be checked out.”
At the end of this story, Judy’s manager takes her to the emergency room, thanks to you for taking the time to talk with Judy, help her out, and make sure she was taken care of. It turned out to be appendicitis and Judy was rushed to the operating room.
Now imagine if you hadn’t looked up from your phone, or if you complained because poor Judy was moving so slow and slowing down your life plans.
Well then Judy’s fate could have been different that day. And you would not only have ignored something that was right in front of you, but you could have inadvertently harmed someone.
Don’t worry. Judy did well and had her surgery before her appendix ruptured. 🙂
But it did, in fact, pour down rain and all the groceries (and you) were soaked as they got loaded in the trunk.
Now I ask you. Is it worth looking under the surface?
It turns out taking time to get out of your head can mean you’re helping another human being — and we all know, that’s going to make you – and them – happier and healthier.
Where can you make your deep dive, look under the surface, and see what you’ve been blind to?