By Edwin Acevedo
They say medicine is a hard science, based on heavily scrutinized theories and proven postulates. Medicine is supposedly made up of differentials, diagnostic workups, and medications aimed to alleviate or cure. Everything is based on evidence, everything. But, today, something happened that hasn’t been researched using IRBs; something intangible that restored my faith in humanity.
I was on my way home from a tiring day of being pimped by residents, and dealing with the monstrous egos of surgeons. It was a long day, but fortunately, I’m a firm believer in that ‘break your neck to keep your head up, if thats what it takes’ ideology. I was stuck in traffic for over a half-hour, and as I inched up at a snail’s pace, I noticed that there was a car broken down in the left lane. When I looked in the car, I saw a brittle, old woman complete with an osteoporotic kyphosis – you know, the type that would wear those flat-bottomed walking shoes with Velcro – and I immediately felt a primal need to help.
I got out of the car, garbed in a shirt and a loosened tie, remnants of my long day in the hospital. I ran up to her window, plainly stated my intentions, and got behind her car to get to work. Cars passed, but no one would stop to let me push her to the side of the road. Then, like a scene from a movie, a man got out of his car, and wordlessly started helping me push. Before I could blink, a truck pulled up and blocked the two lanes of traffic so that we can switch lanes and get to the shoulder. At the same exact time, a third man got out and ran to help with the car. Together, we pushed the car to the side in less than 15 seconds, and relieved the 5-mile long traffic jam on Route 130. When I ran up to her window to ask her if she needed anything else, I saw that twinkle that builds up in your eyes right before you cry, and with the sincerest words I’ve ever heard uttered from a stranger, she said, “I love you”. I was taken aback, and almost teared as I walked back to my car.
As I reflected on what had transpired on the rest of my drive home, I began to appreciate the significance of what had just occurred. Four strangers got together to help this old woman get off the road safely. We worked without words, like a machine. We worked quickly and efficiently, like brothers, all without even making eye contact.
What occurred today is what medicine feels like. Its not hard science. Its not protein transcription, chest CTs, and pre-operative clearance. Its not stethoscopes, big words, or fancy $3,000 medications. Medicine is healing. And it can be done with words, actions, or even a gesture as simple as a smile.
Those men made my day better. And together, we made her day better. And I don’t even know their names.