Help! My Wife Fell, And She Can’t Get Up!

No, that’s not a joke – at least not entirely – but it is a funny way (remember those TV ads for that panic button service?) to blow off steam as I process a pretty scary thing that happened last week, and the beginning of my moving past trauma care, to trying to learn something from the event.

This past Wednesday morning, our 15 year old daughter came crashing through the bedroom door, telling me, in a remarkably panicked voice I will not soon forget, that her mother/my wife was calling for my help, and that she, our daughter, should not come downstairs.   My heart sank, my adrenalin rushed up, and I took off.  I came into the kitchen to find my wife on the ground, conscious but confused, telling me that she thought she had passed out and hurt her head.  Both it seemed were true, and I made two calls – one to a best friend who lives two doors down and who happens to be a highly accomplished neurologist, and the other to our local volunteer ambulance service.  Both were in our kitchen within minutes.

You can imagine the drill from here: on site exam, transport by ambulance to hospital emergency room, and then working through the various reasons she might have lost conscious and concussed her as she hit the stone floor of our kitchen.  And here is where the learning comes in, but I admit that I am still wrestling with the lesson, even though it is a good one, and one resulting from good news.

Having ruled out anything wrong with her brain, the doctors moved on the next likely culprit in this drama – her heart.  It turns out, that too seems totally unremarkable, at least from a physiological standpoint.  From an emotional standpoint, I can attest to the fact that her heart is anything but unremarkable, but that was not the doctors’ concern. 

At some point during our 2 day stay in the hospital, one doctor – actually the husband of our neurologist friend – commented that what my wife’s cardiologist has told her was correct (i.e. that we would probably never get a definitive reason explaining this this “event”).  He then pointed out how that was good news, explaining that it is precisely those patients with unexplained faint and falls, that have the best long-term prognoses.   The patients with readily identifiable causes for such events – typically brain or heart issues – are the folks about whom to worry, not people like my wife. 

I get the logic.  No clear precipitating problem, indicates no serious issue.  I should be happy, right?  And don’t get me wrong: having excluded a bunch of scary possibilities, I am deeply relieved, but I want an explanation!  If nothing else, how can we effectively prevent that which we do not understanding?  I say “I”, by the way, because this is my issue, not my calmer wife’s.

I want to know what happened here!  But that’s the point.  Not only is that not possible, the fact that it is not possible, is actually a good thing.  It points to a better prognosis the most important person in this story – my wife.  So what is wrong with me? 

Actually nothing – at least not in this regard – but there is a lesson here for me, and maybe for any of us who get sidetracked by the need for a short-term explanation, instead of staying focused on a long term-solution.   While the former offers a certain kind of satisfaction i.e. understanding what the hell happened here, the former is what I want most of all, and as frustrating as it may be not to have both, I know which really matters. 

Understanding causes is usually a good and important thing.  Usually, but not always.  And in this case, the science is clear regarding which is which. 

So I need to embrace the blessing of not knowing.  I need to separate the desire to know from the desire to protect, because in this case, the first has little to do with the second.  It’s not easy for me to wrap my mind around that, but I am learning to, and I am grateful for that lesson because it feels like one which can help in lots of areas of life.  I just wish I hadn’t learned it this way.  I am sure my wife agrees!

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