Posted by: trevormeers | August 19, 2010

Not A Century Too Soon

You don’t have to hang around hikers, hunters or horse people very long before you hear someone declare in their grittiest voice, “I think I was born a century too late.” Of course, they tend to say this while wearing a Gore-Tex jacket, resting their elbows on satellite photos of their deer lease or leaning on an F-150.

When they talk about "the good ol 'days," they probably weren't referring to spending time in hospitals.

Personally, I think I’d get along pretty well if some techno-Grinch snuck off with half our modern conveniences in the night. But my romance for the old days burns away like a thin fog when I’m sitting bedside with Katie on her road back from epic surgery. If she’d been born a century ago, she probably wouldn’t have lived six months. If she’d been born when I was, no one could’ve even detected the problem the surgeon just fixed.

This morning, we stood in a huddle of 11 medical people for Katie’s daily briefing. It was like nodding your head through a conversation in another language, grabbing onto the familiar words that race by. The discussion floated on a river of data streaming out of her room.

We have a flat-screen monitor that displays Katie’s pulse, blood pressure, respiration and blood oxygen level and summarizes it all for the doctor when he stops in. If her temperature moves a half degree, the nurse dedicated just to her knows when and for how long. Blood tests conducted every few hours tell us what’s going on with her platelets and other components I can’t even name. The nutritionist taps the pedal or brake on her glucose level every day, depending on what the tests report. A pharmacy somewhere in the building dispenses bar-coded syringes that the nurse must scan against a database before administering them, with the goal of ensuring accurate dosing.

While I can’t count up all the processing power trained on Katie’s health at any given moment, I know that my iPhone probably has more than the Apollo 11 moon mission. So I’m fairly certain the technology stacked at every headboard on our floor could’ve run a couple of space stations if they’d had them 50 years ago.

The hospital’s handling of us, the parents, is advancing at a similar pace. Even in the seven years we’ve spent navigating the medical machine with Katie, we’ve seen dramatic change. In her first years, plenty of medical people treated us as an opportunity to test their pet theories, leading us down endless, pointless rounds of questioning and hypothesizing and, sometimes before we learned we could say no, testing. Now that we’re a few years down the road and (not inconsequentially, a higher-quality hospital), we hear a lot of things like, “How do you think this is working? You know her better than any of us.” And “Do you feel comfortable in your understanding of what we’re talking about doing?” And even “Make sure you’re getting enough rest yourself.”

Last night, the hospital hosted a parents’ “spa night” on the eighth floor with free neck massages. (While we appreciate the care, Teri drew the line at the flyer’s language about “Take time to be pampered! You deserve it!” She said, “Not while my kid is lying in this bed.” To be honest, we felt like deadbeat parents just spending 30 minutes buying groceries at Hy-Vee yesterday.)

My gratitude ramped up again when I went upstairs to stretch my legs at the medical museum yesterday. The gallery of photos and antique medical instruments convinced me that I’d probably just rather check out of this life than go see the doctor in the good old days. In the era of limited (or no) anesthetics, one doctor summed up his surgical approach as “Six minutes to cut everything that was soft, to tie everything that bled and to saw everything that was hard.” In 1870, local citizens almost burned down the University of Iowa hospital because its staff kept raiding graveyards so students had something to practice on. An old newspaper ad shows a man beating down the grim reaper with a bottle of Hunt’s Remedy, which is “Never Known To Fail” in curing “all dropsy and all diseases of the kidneys, bladder, liver and urinary organs.”

Back here in 2010, Katie’s surgeon conducted MRIs while he operated in order to keep an eye on his progress and used EEGs to track the electrical functions in her body. I try to picture The Six-Minute Surgeon watching all this, and I remember sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke writing that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

I’m sure some dad in 1910 leaned back on a straight-back chair in his scratchy wool suit and marveled at what the doctors were able to do for his kid, too. And if the world lasts so long, I’m sure some dad with a kid like Katie in 2110 will turn to his wife and say, “Can you believe kids used to be in the hospital for three weeks to fix this kind of thing?”

But God placed Katie and us in 2010, and while there’s still plenty that human medicine can’t touch, I’m grateful for how much it can. And that’s enough to keep my mountain man fantasies about the old days on the shelf.



  1. Hang in there, man. I don’t even know you or your daughter, but I’m rooting for you every step of the way. Your blog is tremendous!

  2. i was anxious to hear how things were going today. i don’t really know what kind of surgery katie had, but i’m glad that your report is optimistic. i think of her a lot when i’m working and pray that she is not suffering too much. you are a good writer trevor. you should work for a publisher.

  3. Trevor, I so appreciate you blogs…each gives me some things to ponder…in which to stand in awe. You are tremendously gifted in sharing and I wonder if you know what a blessing you are! I’m grateful the Lord chose to put you and me in the same time and place in history. I continue to pray for all four of you.

  4. One by one the five of us sit down in front of the computer screen and read your blog. One by one each gets up and quietly leaves the room to ponder. We are pulling for you guys.

  5. Thank you for the update, Trevor. We love your family and will continue to pray for all of you. Praising God with you for his guidance and care. We are often overwhelmed by how graciously God allows for technological advancements amongst sinful man. And we are blown away by how many will give the doctor all of the credit for his amazing acts. I firmly believe that behind every skillful surgeon is an army of believers pleading with God to unleash his power in their midst. Reading your post turned my thoughts quickly to Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Yep, throughout ALL GENERATIONS!!! 🙂

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