doctor, doctor

heartI feel the need…

I feel the need for levity

This joke comes from one of my main sources of jokes: I retell it here in honour of those who work in our health service, especially those who work in cardiac services.

A mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a motorcycle when he spotted a well known heart surgeon in his shop. The surgeon was waiting for the service manager to look at his bike.

The mechanic shouted across the garage, “Hey Doc, can I ask you a question?”

The surgeon, a bit surprised, walked over to the mechanic who was working on the motorcycle. The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands and said, “So doc, look at this engine, I open its heart, take valves out, fix them, put ’em back and when I finish, it works just like new. So how come I get such a small salary and you get the really big bucks, when you and I are doing basically the same work?”

The surgeon paused, smiled and leaned over and whispered to the mechanic, “Try doing it with the engine running.”

Be blessed, be a blessing

the heart of the matter

Sorry about the absence of a bloggage on Friday and over the weekend. On Friday I went to visit a church near Southampton as part of my sabbatical studies, and it was so encouraging. Thank you Gordon and your church for the hospitality and sharing.

On Friday evening I stretched out my left arm at about 10pm and felt a twinge. By 3am on Saturday the twinge had become very painful indeed and my left hand was starting to feel a bit numb, so I looked at NHS Direct’s website and entered my symptoms. I was rather surprised that it suggested I should go to hospital immediately.

So I rang NHS Direct instead, and having spoken to two nice people they concluded that I should go to hospital immediately and, before I knew what was happening, an ambulance crew was knocking on the door. They wired me up and did not see anything too alarming but took me to the hospital anyway.

The hospital staff were great (I was feeling silly and a bit of a fraud, especially when the ambulance staff insisted on wheeling me in a wheelchair). They realised quite quickly what I was trying to say all along: that I had strained / torn / tweaked a muscle in my arm.

The problem was that the symptoms were such that it meant that the answers I gave to the person on the phone sounded suspiciously like the symptoms of a heart attack. Let me state here and now, on the record, I did not have a heart attack, I don’t have any heart problems, and other than a very painful left arm I am fine. Any rumours circulating to the contrary are false!

I am glad that our NHS system was so efficient and alert to the possibilities of me having a heart attack. I am grateful to all the staff who made sure that they were happy that I was not going to keel over before releasing me into the wild, rather than just taking my word for it. I am happy to know that my heart is in good condition. Better to be safe than sorry. At the hospital the doctor I saw could tell I was in a lot of pain and prescribed me some heavier duty painkillers for the pain in my arm – unfortunately they also make me feel dopier than usual.

But it did feel like a bit of an over-reaction. I only wanted some advice about what I could do to reduce the pain in my arm and ended up having an ambulance ride and a mini waxing (pulling off the electrode contacts from the ECG machine also removed a few body hairs).

I wonder if sometimes churches are the same. Someone may come to us asking for some help and before they know it they have been presented with a full explanation of the good news about Jesus, enrolled on an Alpha course and provisionally booked for a baptism. When people came to Jesus he was far more generous – he allowed others to set the agenda. He did not have a set routine of questions designed to diagnose their problem or a series of presentations and programmes to make them a Christian. Several times in the gospels he asked people, “What would you like me to do for you?”

That’s an amazing question to ask. It’s a dangerous question, a vulnerable question, and it’s a mission question. It leaves the power with the person who has come to him rather than him assuming control of the situation. It keeps the focus on the individual rather than on what we might think is the answer.

Yet at the same time we often find Jesus answering the wrong question. When four friends lowered their paralysed friend through a hole in the roof to get him in front of Jesus for healing, Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven! He did not start with the physical healing, he healed the man’s soul. But then, to demonstrate that he had authority to forgive sins, he did the apparently more difficult task of healing the man.

Confusing isn’t it?

Yes and no. Jesus knew what was at the heart of the man’s needs. We may need to spend some time listening to get to the same point. But if Jesus’ mission question is not far from our lips we will be on the way to getting to the heart of the matter.

doctor, doctor…

In preparation for an operation next month I visited my Doctor’s surgery this morning for a barrage of pre-op tests. They had to do it at my GP’s because the hospital where the operation will take place is in London. Last week the hospital phoned me while I was in a friend’s car, being driven around the M25. They asked me lots of questions about my lifestyle and health, and I am glad that they did not need to ask me anything too personal, given that I had company!

I am surprised and impressed at the level of preparation that is going into this operation. I have had some operations before and do not remember anything of this scale or detail. They now must know everything about me except my inside leg measurement (33″ if they want to know). The operation is not a routine one, but at the same time it’s not as if it is open heart or brain surgery.

Last month I reflected on how well God knows me and these tests and questions have made me reflect further on that. God does not need to run tests or ask questions to know all about me. He knows me because he made me and is aware of all that is going on in me. He doesn’t just know the medical information: he knows my spiritual health, my thoughts, my ideas, my aspirations, my fears, my sins and my successes. Despite or because of that (I am not sure which, perhaps it’s both) he loves me without reservation. He does not regret knitting me together inside my mother while at the same time he threw away the knitting pattern when he had finished because he only wanted one of me (wise!!).

Psalm 139 contains a wonderful poetic description of that intimate creative knowledge. It’s another of those passages that sends a shiver down my spine.

Doctor jokes
“Doctor, doctor, I think I swallowed a pillow.”
“Why do you think that?”
“A little down in the mouth.”

Pharmacist handing prescription to customer: “Take one of these every four hours. Or as often as you can get the cap off.”

A doctor is a bit worried about whether two of his older patients so he calls them in one at a time. First of all he calls in Eric and tells him he is going to ask him a couple of questions. Eric nodded and the doctor began to question him. The first question was this. “Eric if I was to poke out one of your eyes what would happen?”

“I would only be able to see out of one eye,” Eric answered without much thought.

“What would happen if I poked out the other eye?”

“I wouldn’t be able to see out of either eye,” said Eric, pleased to have answered correctly. The doctor then sent him outside while he drew up the paperwork and accessed Sid’s files.

When Eric got into the waiting room however, he told Sid what the correct answers were.

The doctor calls in Sid and he followed the same procedure that he had with Eric. “Sid, the first question is what would happen if I cut off your ear?”

“I would be unable to see out of one eye,” he said remembering what he had been told. This received a perplexed look from the doctor but he just simply asks the other question so that he could figure out what the man was thinking. “Sid, what would happen if I cut off your other ear?”

“I would be unable to see out of either eye,” he answered with a smile as if he knew he had passed.

But then the doctor asked him what his reasoning was. Sid paused for a moment and then said, matter-of-factly, “Me hat would fall down over me eyes.”