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Meditation 409
Medicine or Miracles

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There was a first-person article in the paper earlier this week[1] by a graphic designer who effectively lost vision in one eye back in the '50s and recently had an operation which restored his vision. He opened by writing about a Christian upbringing and a belief in miracles. This was followed by a questioning of his faith when full use of an eye was lost. Still, he had a successful career as a graphic artist. Advances in eye surgery and finding the right opthamologist meant that after half a century, he can properly use his eye again. And he concluded with "I believe in miracles again."

Where's the miracle? This is just state-of-the art surgery. There's is nothing in this story that is beyond the normal, other than the demonstration of the triumph of the human spirit in making a career in graphic arts with limited vision.

I'm going in for surgery this coming Wednesday. I'm not expecting any miracles. The outcomes range from a slight possibility of dying under general anesthesia to restoring nearly full function to my left knee.[2] And any number of intermediate results are possible depending on how well the surgeon exercises his skills and my own dedication to physiotherapy. When I leave the hospital it will be with a second knee made of metal and Teflon. Whatever the outcome, positive or negative, it won't be a miracle. It will be current medical care.

A miracle would be if I left the hospital with two fully functioning flesh, blood, bone and cartilage knees. That is not going to happen. Not with the medical science of 2005. When and if medicine does reach that standard of care, it will no longer be a miracle.

Footnotes:

  1. Miracle in the eye of the beholder, Willem Hart, The Globe and Mail, Tuesday September 13 (republished with the author's permission here)
  2. Based on the latter assumption I am still planning the Crypt Lake Hike late next June in Waterton National Park, and later in 2006 an autumn hike to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. If anyone wants to do either hike with me, let me know. Neither hike will be a miracle either.