Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Amputee doc: We need to 'make room' for suffering

By Louise Kinross

Last night I was scrolling through the New York Times and a giant magazine feature on Dr. BJ Miller popped up: One man's quest to change the way we die. BLOOM interviewed BJ, a palliative care doctor and triple amputee, back in 2011: Normal: It's not all it's cracked up to be. 

Check out the New York Times piece for an in-depth look at how BJ used his own experience adapting to life as an amputee after an accident in university to inform how he works with patients who are dying. 

The take-away for me was this quote about how terminal patients need to rejig their expectations. "The question becomes how do you incorporate those hard facts into your moment-by-moment life instead of trying to run away from them?" he says. Earlier in the piece, he talks about how he needed to "get in" to his acquired disabilities, rather than trying to return to, or approximate, his previous state as able-bodied.

"Miller spent years repulsed by the 'chopped meat' where his arm ended and crushed with shame when he noticed people wince or look away," the author writes. "But he slowly became more confident and playful. He replaced the sock-like covering many amputees wear over their arm stumps with an actual sock: first a plain sock, then stripes and argyles. Then, one day he forgot to put on any sock and, just like that, 'I was done with it. I was no longer ashamed of my arm.'"