Grand Rounds, Volume 7, Number 4: Uplifting Moments in Medicine

Good morning! Thank you for all the submissions which have flooded my inbox over the past week. They kept me going through a stretch of countless overnight shifts in the emergency department, which seemed never-ending and darker than a moonless night. In the midst of stunning fall foliage this October, the vibrant colors of this week’s Grand Rounds reach towards the sky. Take a moment out of the day to live in the present. Listen to the sounds around you, whatever they may be – leaves rustling in the wind, blaring sirens, constant monitors. Sit back, relax, take a long, deep breath and a sip of your favorite morning drink. Take in the flying kites, subtle music, and silver linings of today’s indulgence: Uplifting Moments in Medicine.

Autumn Sugar Maples, by John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk. Vermont's outstanding array of fall foliage is highlighted by the colorful sugar maple. Broadleaf plants shed their leaves each year in preparation for winter, but variable temperatures and moisture determine how spectacular each annual show will be.

We begin with a story of redemption in Copiapó, Chile: the rescue of 33 miners who had been trapped after the collapse of a mine on August 5. The miners spent 69 days underground. In the first days after the collapse, they set off explosives and burned tires in an effort to communicate with the outside world. Shift boss Luis Urzúa rationed milk, crackers, peaches, and canned tuna for his entire crew over 17 days, before the world knew that the men remained alive 2000 feet underground. When their reserves of bottled water dwindled to only 10 liters, they began drinking water tainted with motor oil from metal drums. By the evening of October 13, all 33 men had been successfully recused and reunited with their families. The spirit which kept them alive through 69 days of darkness is awe-inspiring. The miners worked with each other and with the doctors, scientists, and support groups above ground in order to survive. Gómez, the eldest miner, served as a religious leader and worked with psychologists to support the team’s spiritual health. Yonni Barrios served as the medic for the group; he monitored their health, administered vaccinations, and provided reports for doctors on the surface. Sepúlveda organized the miners’ video journals, and Ticona worked to maintain the underground portion of the telephone and videoconferencing systems. The story highlights the best of medicine, science, and humanity. Watch all 33 rescues online at CNN. Elaine Schattner supplements this with a wonderful post, Copiapó Dreaming – The Copper Miners’ Tale, about the uplifting aspects of their story.

Luis Urzúa, the last miner to be rescued, celebrated with President Sebastián Piñera of Chile.

Along the same theme, we must remember and reflect on the brave men and women who put themselves in danger in the line of duty – fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, and medics. Some even choose this calling without the prospect of compensation. In Michelle Wood’s post, The Volunteer EMS, she recounts the story of her parents who worked as volunteer EMTs in a small town. She mentions a site with poetry dedicated to volunteer EMS personnel.

Moving on to more practical but still uplifting stories, David Harlow interviews Massachusetts State Representative Ruth Balser on the success of Massachusetts health care reform – the state has successfully achieved 97% health care coverage in just a few years. Massachusetts takes the lead again in patient-centered health care with new legislation. On October 1, 2010, it became the first state to require that all hospitals have a Patient Family Advisory Council. Read more at Bedside Manner in the post Leading the Way on Patient Centered Care. On a more personal level, in An Educator by Chance, medical librarian at Laika’s MedLibLog discusses the development and implementation of training modules for medical students and residents who are learning how to navigate the vast world of technology and medical information.

Rescuers applaud the rescue of a firefighter rescued at site of World Trade Center.

And that brings us to the life of the physician. The first Grand Rounds of the year, at Doctor Grumpy in the House, served as a humorous and disgruntled reflection on medicine. Today’s edition serves as a nice juxtaposition to this. Jill of All Trades, MD, writes about the positive aspects of being a physician in Practice Perks. She cites an article by Abigail Beckel in Physicians PracticeTop 10 Reasons to Be Happy You’re a Doctor. For all the physicians, residents, and medical students who are having a difficult time, enjoy these small reminders that our contribution does matter. Despite our endless complaints, grievances, and hardships, remember that the grass is always greener on the other side.

And now we move along to our patients, who are our greatest source of hope. Mattie Stepanek said it best, “While we are living in the present, we must celebrate life everyday, knowing that we are becoming history with every work, every action, every deed.” Bongi, a general surgeon in South Africa, writes about a fulfilling relationship with his patient in the gift. Spice Island Queen, who will be hosting Grand Rounds next week, writes about her experiences at “the best place on earth,” a Camp for Teens with Multiple Sclerosis.

Boy in Mid-Flight, Jodhpur, India in 2007. Photograph by Steve McCurry.

Happiness is not always straightforward. Although countless studies have examined what makes people happy, we have not yet come up with a formula that provides a clean-cut answer. But perhaps there are a few basic principles which can guide us along our path. A psychiatrist at How To Cope With Pain discusses some of these in Are Banana Split Jelly Bellies The Key To Happiness? No – But Here’s What Is (Even Despite Your Pain!). And to end with an uplifting note of laughter – the Happy Hospitalist shares with us a video about a comical interaction between a doctor and a neurologist.

I hope you all leave this morning’s Grand Rounds with a little hop in your step and flutter in your heart. Thank you for stopping by! Please be sure to check out Grand Rounds on Twitter and Facebook.

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7 Responses to Grand Rounds, Volume 7, Number 4: Uplifting Moments in Medicine

  1. Pingback: This week’s science and medical blog carnivals | Science News And Interesting Articles

  2. What a lovely blog, filled with threads of hope and peace. And how wonderful to see my son, Mattie, still touching lives and hearts in this world. Thank you for including him.
    Jeni Stepanek (“Mattie’s mom”).

  3. Thanks for bringing a little bit of sunshine to this rainy day in S. Cali! Thanks for hosting!

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Grand Rounds, Volume 7, Number 4: Uplifting Moments in Medicine « A Medical Resident's Journey -- Topsy.com

  5. Michelle W says:

    Thank you for including our entry in this uplifiting edition.

  6. Thanks for putting this together, MD!

  7. rlbates says:

    Very nice edition! Thanks for hosting.

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