Miracles: We Have Seen

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Physicians are accustomed to expect the unexpected, and we are usually well-prepared to respond. But occasionally in the course of caring for our patients, we encounter events that truly stun us: unforgettable occurrences that defy all of our predictions and expectations, far exceeding the wide berth we are trained to allow for surprise.


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These are events for which there is no clear medical or psychological explanation, or if there is, the explanation itself is extraordinary. When these occur, we are rarely alone in our awe; medicine is a collaborative endeavor, so during these truly confounding and mysterious episodes, we seek advice and consultation from colleagues, specialists, and mentors.

And when they, too, are at a loss to explain what we are seeing, the experience often deeply impacts everyone involved. This book tells the stories of medical 'miracles' in the words of leading doctors who witnessed them, physicians at the top of their fields. Contributors to this book include pediatricians, internists, surgeons, family medicine specialists, emergency medicine physicians, obstetricians, psychiatrists, and subspecialists in a wide variety of fields. They include leaders in the bedside care of individual patients, as well as in global health care where entire populations are affected.

Miracles We Have Seen : America's Leading Physicians Share Stories They Can't Forget

Among our essayists are dozens of preeminent educators, including deans and department heads, on the faculties of the top university medical schools in the country. All of our essayists also care for patients, spanning the broad clinical spectrum from community practitioners to highly specialized experts at major medical centers. Rather, the stories in this book are of patients whose outcomes amazed their doctors and nurses, perhaps despite their heroic efforts, because of the seeming impossibility of the events that took place.

The stories recount spectacular serendipities, impossible cures, breathtaking resuscitations, extraordinary awakenings, and recovery from unimaginable disasters. Still other essays tell of physicians' experiences in which the miracle was more emotional than physical, yet also left a lasting imprint. Discovering a silver lining of forgiveness or resilience, a child's wisdom or a family's generosity of spirit, evoked salvation and triumph in the face of sadness and tragedy.

Over the course of a career, these emotionally stunning events occur more frequently than, for example, a patient 'coming back to life' or recovering from a terminal disease after all hope had been lost, yet they are no less inspirational, no less miraculous to those witnessing them. As my colleague and friend Dr.


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Kevin Kalikow commented, it's those essays that truly illustrate the difference between 'curing' and 'healing. The first medical miracle I witnessed was as a pediatrics resident-in-training. Two young brothers, ages three and seven, were brought into the emergency room and then the intensive care unit after near-drowning episodes.

The recovery of one of the brothers was so unlikely, so astounding, that I was forever imprinted by the experience. This was not the last miracle I would see in my thirty-plus years as a pediatrics specialist. Many of my colleagues would agree that, despite being at the forefront of medicine and science, what we don't understand often exceeds what we do understand. And even when we think we understand, we are frequently proven wrong. The word 'miracle' is often used in religious contexts, and while faith and prayer certainly play an important role in many of our patients' lives, as well as in some of the vignettes in this compilation, this is not a book about religion.

I will leave it to the reader to determine what, if any, role those factors play in the outcome of these stories.

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Rather, this is a book about optimism and inspiration, and the realization that what we don't know or don't understand isn't necessarily cause for fear, and can even be reason for hope. The experience of inviting physicians to contribute essays to this collection has, in and of itself, been enlightening for me. There have been three general categories of responses, all very thoughtful in their own way. Some colleagues knew right away that they hadn't had 'miraculous experiences,' and politely thanked me for asking.

A second group said, 'Nothing comes to mind right away, but I'll keep thinking on it and try to come up with something.

Miracles We Have Seen: America's Leading Physicians Share Stories They Can't Forget

The third group of responses was most exciting for me. These colleagues immediately replied with, 'Oh my goodness! I have an amazing story I've been waiting for the chance to tell. In the telling of the inspirational stories that fill this book, we learn as much about the physicians as about their patients. In these decades-old cases, the essayist-physician often recalls the concomitant astonished reactions of his or her senior and supervising physicians, expressed on rounds and in case conferences.

It was the astonishment of the senior physicians, highly trained specialists and experienced mentors, as much as the amazement felt by the young physicians, that kept those memories alive all these years.

In many cases, physicians describing events occurring years ago noted that those early memories served to give them hope as they encountered new, seemingly hopeless cases in subsequent years. Some contributors wrote that the miracle experience actually directed them in their choice of specialty and has influenced much of their professional decision-making throughout their careers. Others draw on those miraculous moments at times when they themselves feel helpless in the face of adversity and tragedy. Powerful stuff. Another unexpected and quite magical outgrowth of this project has been the reconnections that some of the physician-essayists have now made with the patients and patients' families with whom they shared the miracle years earlier.

Either in the course of tracking down the individuals for permission to tell their story, or simply reaching out to learn what has become of them, writing these essays has renewed old bonds. Finally, three especially noteworthy responses to my invitation to submit an essay deserve special mention:.

Several colleagues responded by saying that their memories of patients whose outcomes were unexpectedly bad are more vivid and haunting than those with miraculously good outcomes. We must accept the inevitability of bad things occasionally happening to our patients over which we have no more control than we do over mystifyingly good outcomes like some of those described in this book.

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And among other essays herein, particularly those in the 'Silver Linings' chapter, a mix of good and bad can occur with potent outcomes. Over the course of our careers, we can only hope that the positive results outweigh the negative, sustaining us in the good works we hope to accomplish.

Two essay contributors asked me to caution readers that patients' dependence on miracles can be detrimental. While retaining hope in seemingly hopeless situations is emotionally and sometimes even physically healing, hope alone will not cure disease.

When proven medical treatments are avail-able and beneficial, but declined in favor of waiting for a miracle, the patient will likely be disappointed. The takeaway message from the essays in this book cannot be to rely solely on a bolt of lightning from above.


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  • I received no essays for this collection of miraculous outcomes describing patients who refused proven medical therapy. President John F. Kennedy's son Patrick, who died shortly after birth, and whose disease eventually led to research that saved generations of babies. Miracles We Have Seen is a book of inspiration and optimism, and a compelling glimpse into the lives of physicians. By clicking "Notify Me" you consent to receiving electronic marketing communications from Audiobooks. You will be able to unsubscribe at any time. Sign up Login.

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