Rant: Credit Where Due

Recently I stepped in a pile of religious doo-doo on the ‘net. I extricated myself as fast as I could and made an attempt to tidy the mess, but it left the inevitable stain. What happened was this.

I have Yahoo and Google set to troll the web for the latest news on liver transplants and Hepatitis C. Along with the (desired) medical info I get articles about celebrities (Anita Roddick dies from HCV complications, alcoholic politicians and celebrities get moved to the top of the transplant list when they wear out an organ), Google also sends along links to blogs on these topics. Usually I just scan them but now and then something catches my eye and I read it. Some of the blogs are depressing or recitations of medical procedures, but there’s also touching and useful stuff there. It was one of these that got me in trouble.

This particular blog was by a woman whose husband had a liver transplant early in August. What caught my attention was a posting she made responding to someone –”anonymous” – who had criticized her effusive praise of God in general and Jesus in particular for the success of her husband’s transplant. In her response she was all the martyr, the holy religionist suffering for Jesus at the hands of non-believing infidels.

I had some sympathy for her – she wasn’t asking for a fight and goddess knows a liver transplant is trauma for everyone involved – but this guy gave her one anyway. What stuck out for me however wasn’t her religion, but how, in her repeated refrain of thanking God for the transplant, the surgery, the donated liver, her partner’s recovery, she said not one word about the doctors, the nurses, the donor teams, the donor’s family, the pre- and post- transplant support staff, etcetera etcetera etcetera. You know: the people who actually did the work to save her husband’s life.

In the many hours and days I spend at the hospital and transplant clinics I see this all the time. People yakking on about how some personal deity caused the “miracle” of a transplanted organ, put a cancer in remission, rescued a successful birth from a difficult pregnancy, on and on. Often these folks praise the sacred doings right in front of the people who actually made the success possible.

These same pious folk are often indifferent – or even downright hostile – to the staff, as if those who have dedicated their lives to healing and caring for others are the cause of their problems, not the solution.

And so my button was pushed and I posted a comment on the woman’s blog. While not criticizing her religionist approach (no arguing with those folks on that; logic and reason has nothing to do with how their minds work), I did try to make the point that the real miracle was in the hospital team that made it all happen. I pointed out it was the surgeons who trained for decades, the nurses who fuss over us transplantees to the point of distraction, the support staff charting our every sneeze in the months following surgery – these are the ones that keep us going.

Eventually she posted back. She was a bit kinder to me than she was to “anonymous” – I hadn’t attacked her religion directly – but she said that while she and her partner were thankful for the medical team, only God can do a miracle and performs it through them.

Hooey.

God didn’t miraculously guide the surgeon’s hand; she or he studied and practiced – dedicated an entire life – to gain that skill. Would you want it any other way? (Rhetorical question: why, when a surgeon makes the rare mistake, does he suddenly get the blame and god suddenly not involved? If something goes right, credit the deity; if it goes wrong, blame the human. What hypocrisy!)

My mother was religious, and she faced her own medical trials, particularly at the end of her life with ovarian cancer. Yes, she prayed. Yes, she thought about the religion that she had been brought into and that had offered her comfort in her life. But she was a very wise lady. She knew that cancer isn’t a “punishment”, that a cure is not a “miracle,” that a failure to find a cure means only that a cure is not available. Though she fought with the medical staff and complained about some of the more egregious medical procedures (who doesn’t?) she knew her oncologist and the chemotherapy staff and the surgeons cutting tumors out of her belly were working for her, not against her.

“God helps those who helps themselves,” my mother said to her children (constantly). Pray, if it brings you comfort and strength. But then get to work; we’re responsible for helping ourselves, not god. That’s what free will is about. And one of the ways mom taught us to help ourselves is by getting help from the best skills others have to offer when necessary.

I took another look at that woman’s blog while writing this. Comments have been pouring in from all manner of religionists and apologetic “nonbelievers,” all outraged at “anonymous,” all swearing he/she didn’t know a thing about Christians, was evil and cruel, and that they would “pray” for them. None of them “got” what s/he was trying to say. Most disappointing to me, however, was not one commenter made a mention of the merits (or demerits) of acknowledging the mighty efforts of the medical team that saved the husband’s life. No discussion, not one comment beyond the bloggers’ own short response to me. How sad.

Do you have any idea how many people it takes to get one single person through a liver transplant? Gather them together and they would fill a lecture hall! And you know what? Jesus, or Mohammad, or Moses, or Buddha, or any other god you care to conjure will not be sitting among them.

I’m sick and tired of people crediting phantoms for their second chance with life when the real causes of the “miracle” are hovering attentively around their hospital bed. I see the looks on some of the staff’s faces when they are ignored and all credit is given elsewhere. They deserve better.

Thank you, medical people, for devoting your lives to keeping others alive. Every one of us, patient, loved ones, all, all in your debt. You are my heroes.

End of rant.

[September 07]

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No Responses to “Rant: Credit Where Due”

  1. JeffW Says:

    Re: Credit where do
    A great “rant” and so very true. All the more reason to keep the deeply “religious” and social conservatives out of the hospitals and teaching facilities. Let doctors and nurses practice medicine, they are the ones who save lives, not the icons of religion.

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