A Doctor’s Leap of Faith

Assistant Editor Dan Hoffman considers the ways doctors go beyond the logic of medicine.

Posted in , Jan 25, 2016

What happens when a doctor takes a leap of faith?

Browsing the internet recently I came across a story from McAdoo, Pennsylvania (a short drive away from my hometown). Around this time last year, Justin Smith, 26, was walking home from drinks with his co-workers. He doesn’t remember what happened, but he must have tripped and fallen and knocked himself unconscious.

Don Smith, his father, found him the following morning, frozen on a snow bank. “He was blue. His face was lifeless. I checked for a pulse. I checked for a heartbeat. There was nothing,” he told WNEP news.

“The coroner was on scene. The state police were on scene. They were doing essentially a death investigation,” said Dr. Gerald Coleman, the emergency room physician on duty when Justin’s body was brought into the hospital.

Of course–I wouldn’t be writing about it otherwise–it all ended well. After three weeks in a coma, Justin woke up, with no brain damage. Incredibly, Justin recovered completely.

That miracle wasn’t all that caught my attention, however. What I found most remarkable is what Dr. Coleman did. He wouldn’t give up on Justin and pronounce him dead, even though all his training told him the situation was hopeless. “Our mind is supposed to run the show, not our hearts because if your heart runs the show, you can run into some problems,” Dr. Coleman said. “I just kind of threw that to the wind and said, ‘No, not today.”

That’s the kind of doctor I want to see–one who can make the leap beyond what can sometimes be the cold, indifferent logic of medicine. This news item got me thinking how so many of our stories of healing and recovery feature, in one way or another, a care-giver who takes a leap of faith or who goes beyond standard protocol. In the December/January issue of Mysterious Ways, my co-worker Diana Aydin interviewed Dr. Mimi Guarneri, a physician who certainly falls into this category. Dr. Guarneri told Diana that the heart, for example, is not just a functional organ but “the connection to higher power and consciousness.”

I’d hesitate to go to a “faith healer”–I prefer a doctor with a medical degree–but after reading stories like these, I’m inclined to see a doctor who, at the very least, remains open to faith. A doctor like Dr. Guarneri, who believes that I am more than just a body manifesting certain symptoms related to some kind of biological dysfunction–that my body is connected to something else. Or someone like Dr. Coleman, who sensed something greater than himself, whatever that may have been, was telling him to keep trying to save a life, against medical common sense.

Has a doctor or caregiver ever taken a leap for you? Have you taken that leap for others? Share your story with us.

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