Last night I took my older son to the immediate care clinic in the middle of a severe allergy attack. His eyes were swollen almost shut; he had hives and splotches everywhere; he looked like the losing prizefighter in a 12-round match; and most upsetting of all--he was suffering.
Immediate care centers being what they are, you are asked right away if you consider anything you're experiencing to be life-threatening; and if not, you wait. And wait. And wait. We sat with a dozen other people--all equally discouraged, hurting, upset, and worried--waiting for our turn to see the doctor. After a little more than two hours, we were ushered into a small room where we waited another 30 minutes. By this time, the Benadryl had begun to work and the cold wet towel my son had been holding to his face all evening had helped; the swelling had gone down and what was left was a still splotchy face and neck, bright red eyes, heavy fatigue (due at least in part to the medicine), and stopped-upedness.
The doctor walked in with lots of swirling energy, took a look at my son, noticed his eyes, and said, "looks like pinkeye" all in about 10 seconds. From that misdiagnosis, we worked backward, trying to push toward her the details of living with this allergy (from my view, as the mom, and his view, as the experiencer); what we thought about it; what we wondered; what we hoped.
She wasn't really listening. She adjusted her initial diagnosis a bit--it was an allergy-related conjunctivitis, she decided. But she was completely missing the point. He was suffering He was hoping someone would give him some indication that this suffering could end. He didn't want another drop for his eyes--he wanted this not to happen anymore.
The doctor had walked into the room, summed up the situation based purely on what she saw--which was simply what stood out to her most in that moment--and never listened to the full story in the room or the past or possible future of this story. We were never real whole living beings to her (even though she was friendly enough) and her mind never opened enough to let her heart suggest a couple of things that might have really helped.
I write this hoping that when I am called to make quick judgments--professionally or just in my daily life--that I can remember to take a deep breath and listen and receive what is present, to understand the story that is arising to be heard, before I diagnose the situation and act. There is a soul to be honored. There is a need to be met. And the answer isn't just to prescribe eyedrops to make the red go away--it's a need of the heart, the mind, the spirit.