Gratitude Lesson

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News August 2016

"You can ignore your troubles all you want to, but tomorrow they will still be there."

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I can’t begin to recall how many times that phrase has been used on me or how many times I’ve said it to another. But this time, I’ve had a realization that if this phrase is true, then so must it be for the opposite.  

My point being, the good things in our lives are all around us, even when we’re suffering. Here’s how that moment of enlightenment happened upon me.

That Didn’t Sound Right

I had been fighting a urinary tract infection (UTI) that I should have defeated much faster and easier. I went in for a scheduled procedure, a urinalysis was taken, and it was discovered I had a UTI and the procedure couldn’t be performed. I was prescribed a course of antibiotics.

I was surprised because I was feeling fine and since I’m performing an “intermittent cath” bladder program, I can see and analyze my urine every four hours. There were no foul odors nor dark coloring. The doctor said the bacteria was present and I should take the antibiotics. I agreed and got the prescription.

A few days later, I received a follow-up call from the doctor’s office and was asked how I was doing, and I said just fine. Have I experienced any symptoms? I answered no, and the nurse said I can stop taking the antibiotics.

That didn’t sound right to me, and I asked her to verify that with the doctor. The doctor said her nurse was passing on the orders correctly, but if I start to see or feel any symptoms returning, immediately resume the antibiotics. This is the part that got the hair on the back of my neck standing up.

Not that it was a bad recommendation, but things run differently in the spinal-cord injury community and if a bacterium shows up, you take the medication to its completion, no variations.

So why did I listen to this doctor’s bad advice even when I knew better? I spent four days lying in my bed asking myself that question. I still don’t have a good answer.

Not So Mystic

The experience was not without merit, however.

As I complained when my wife woke me up every few hours to change my T-shirt and wipe my forehead with cold towels, I was reminded how lucky I was to have someone who loves me and worries about me to wake up with me in the middle of the night and try to make me comfortable.

As I lamented to my caregiver about getting dragged out of bed and  into the bathroom for my nightly bowel care, I was also reminded of how so many of my friends who aren’t veterans don’t have caregivers or pay out of pocket for the same service.

As I basically had no appetite for four days, I rejected all food inquiries to the point of being irritated by them, not taking into account that even to be checked on so frequently is a blessing.

Even as I contemplated somehow mustering up the energy to write this article, I can’t even begin to balance the miracles I have received from this column. The honor of writing to you every month far outweighs the time and preparation it takes to write it. Besides, there are months that the articles seem to write themselves.

Maybe it’s during our times of struggle that we even attempt to acknowledge the strong and good aspects of our lives, or maybe that is when they manifest themselves. Maybe it’s not so mystic an occurrence.

I noticed a lack of appetite during this time. Not that I had been eating nothing, but I stuck to light meals since I didn’t want that heavy feeling I usually get in my stomach after
eating a steak.

I guess feeding my body healthy food and drinking nothing but water and tea has cleansed by body enough to aid in the defeat of the bacteria.

Of course, when I was well I was eating pizzas, burgers and drinking sodas, making my body ripe to receive any infection that was just happening along my way. 

It’s Being Written

So, maybe the other saying turns out to be just as true. The one that says “we invite our own destiny.”

It seems that when things were going well, I slacked off significantly on my health regimen, creating opportunities for infection and sickness.

But while I was sick, it really seemed my taste profile was altered significantly to include fruits loaded with vitamins and minerals, electrolytes or, at times, just plain water, which, I admit, tasted so good. 

I’ve often wondered how it would be impossible for me to drink eight glasses of water a day but drink eight beers at one party without a problem. 

One thing I didn’t control was the coincidence that I would be watching Back to the Future, listening to Doc Brown say, “Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has.”

True, but it’s being written as we speak, talk, act, drink and eat. We affect our health, relationships, careers and lives. Good or bad, what we do today shows up tomorrow. It took me four days in bed to realize that.

Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma.


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