90: Voice of Reason

90: Voice of Reason

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Voice of Reason

Positive anything is better than negative thinking.

~Elbert Hubbard

“Mike, I need your help,” said the physician at Ben Taub General Hospital as we were concluding a staff meeting. Everyone had just left, but he continued as we stood in the conference room. “I have a patient on another floor who suffered a stroke a week ago, and even though he could, and should, be doing so much more, he is merely lying in bed, not saying or doing much.”

I thought back to my own hospitalization years ago after I was shot in the head. The expectation was that if I even survived, I would be a vegetable. Obviously, I proved all of those pessimistic people wrong. I had a long, painful, and grueling hospitalization, but I returned to college, went to graduate school, married my high school sweetheart, and with her had a daughter, lectured throughout the country, and worked at a trauma hospital. Sure, I still have many disabilities as a result of the shooting, but I survived, living a happy and fulfilling life.

I knew that the doctor wanted me to share with the patient the expectation that his life was not over. The doctor said, “He’s so negative and I’m not sure if he’ll even talk to you, but please try, as our goal for the patient is to get him to go to rehab. However, the way he is acting now indicates to all of us that there is absolutely no way he’ll be able to qualify for the rehab hospital [where a patient must be capable of participating in three hours of rehab activity each day].”

I walked upstairs to the patient’s room and introduced myself. “Hi, my name is Mike Segal from Patient/Customer Relations and . . .” However, before I could continue, the patient did something I could never have expected. He said: “Oh my God, your voice is even worse than mine!”

Was I upset by his remarks? On the contrary — I loved it! I quickly explained why my voice sounded as it did: I had been shot in the head, thereby affecting my vocal cords, and not allowing them to function 100 percent. I shared with him how difficult it had been for me after I was hurt, but I made sure that he realized that I am now happy — and I’ve been very happy for many years.

I told him that when I was hurt I was so angry and upset. “Before I was shot I could do 500 things really well, but now I can only do 200 things really well. For a long time, I was so negative and bitter over the many losses. But eventually I learned to focus on the 200 things I could still do well. I learned to focus on the positive and eliminate most of the negative.”

I saw him thinking, reflecting on what I was telling him. I asked if it were okay if I saw him again, and he quickly replied, “That would be fine.”

Through the next few days, I learned from the therapists (and from him when I would visit) that he was pushing himself to improve, trying to be positive. Now, he is at a rehab hospital where I continue to see him, and he’s doing very well — not merely in his rehab, but also in his outlook on life.

Yes, I believe there are many reasons for his improvement, including his change from a negative attitude to a positive one. Perhaps, “my having a voice even worse than his” may have been just what the doctor ordered!

~Michael Jordan Segal, MSW

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