The Suffering of Others, and Other Planets.

February 18, 2021

(Cross-post from my Slack #mindfulwfh channel.)

I hope this week you found some peace, space, and silence.
I had originally planned to post this morning about the Mars Perseverance probe - it’s a wondrous thing that our species has the science and ingenuity to fling objects millions of kilometers through space and land them safely on other worlds.

And then, in light of all the suffering that’s happening here on Earth - I was conflicted. How do we celebrate achievements in space, when we’re so far from equity and safety here on our own planet?

As I was considering this, the fierce reality of now interposed itself.
I got a call last night from my daughter (15) about 20 minutes before her gymnastics practice was ending. Never a good sign. It was her coach.

Nina had injured her arm while practicing her floor routine. It appeared to the coach that she might have dislocated her elbow. An ER trip is something that every parent dreads and yet must always be prepared to take.

I reached the gym without violating too many traffic laws. She was on the floor, arm crudely splinted and ice packed around it. Mask on, waiting for me. The coach called me over, and I knelt down next to her.

“How are you buggy? Does it hurt a lot?”
“I’m ok. It’s not that bad.”

A few moments. She looked at me. And then she let go and started to cry. She hadn’t cried up to that point, but now that I was there she could let go of what she had been holding on to. She knew her season was over. It hurt more than the elbow in that moment. She wasn’t sure what would happen next. It all came up, and we sat there on the mat together.

I sat there, held her head, and was simply present. There wasn’t anything I could say to make it better - as much as I wanted to, it wouldn’t have been true. It was clear in that moment that what she needed most was someone she trusted to be with her.

We went to the emergency room, and several times over the course of the next 5 hours, this scene would repeat. The pain increased as the joint swelled, and the tears became more about the arm itself, than the season.

Watching someone you love suffering is a terrible feeling. Being helpless to relieve it is worse. All I could do was to be with her, be calm for her, and assure her that they would be able to help her.

Eventually she got a room in the ER department, they lightly sedated her (funny/scary moment on its own) and went to set the joint. The resident tried twice, and both times even under sedation Nina clearly was in a lot of pain. Both times they couldn’t reset it. The attending stepped in, took Nina’s forearm, and with a single move - POP - it was done. Immediately Nina relaxed.

The attending looked over at me and I looked back. I teared up from relief. The attending physician nodded at me, gave instructions to the team, and patted my shoulder on the way out.

It took a while before the arm was splinted, Nina came fully awake, X-rays were taken, and we finally were discharged around midnight. In the larger context of the world, our little emergency wasn’t anything major, but to us it was harrowing.

Watching someone you love suffer is terrible, especially when you are powerless to do much. You can always be present for that person though

We put a probe on another planet yesterday. An amazing achievement.

Our next frontier needs to be empathic presence for those around us.

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Rick Cusick
A sound leader's aim is to open people's hearts -Lao Tzu