Thomas J. Sims M.D.

Under Extreme Circumstances

Hope in the Face of Uncertainty

Hope and faith: Tools in times of discontent.

Posted Mar 08, 2020

Two weeks ago, I had a bit of a health scare. 

No, it wasn’t related to coronavirus; it was much more in my face as it directly related to a significant health condition I was treated for several months previously. That condition, should it worsen, would have a significant impact on my future health and longevity, hence it was vital to get a good report on a CT scan I needed to have done.

I was away from home a good thousand miles, so I had to have my scan done at a facility I was unfamiliar with, performed by technicians who knew nothing about me, and interpreted by doctors who knew nothing of my health history or what I was facing. After identifying myself as a physician to the technician who did my scan, I asked if I could speak with the radiologist scheduled to read my CT to give some history of what my case was about. I was emphatically told such a request was irregular and couldn’t be done. So, unhappy with what the technician said but powerless to do anything about it, when the scan was finished, I asked to see the scan myself. 

“We’re not allowed to show patients their x-rays,” the technician told me, “even on days when we aren’t busy like today.” The technician did little to conceal her annoyance with me for asking such a thing. “And the doctor won’t get a chance to look at your scan until later today – or possibly tomorrow – time allowing.”

When home in Oregon, where I’m a part of the medical community, getting test results and speaking with my doctors is quick and easy. But away from home, even though I played the “doctor card” it was far from simple. 

“Then where will the results of my scan be sent?” I asked the technician. 

After a heavy sigh indicating how anxious she was to finish up with me and get on to the next patient, the tech replied, “You’ll need to get in line to speak with the medical records department for an answer to that.” 

I was tired, annoyed, frustrated, and mad. I left the facility with a feeling of despair; an emotion I don’t usually have. Life had thrown me a curveball and I didn’t know how to handle it.

In my book, On Call in the Arctic, and discussions I give associated with my book, I talk about times when life throws a curveball and I advise readers to improvise, be flexible, and persevere when their training and experience let them down. I suggest to people that, when in the face of adversity, they rely upon their instincts based upon their training and life experience to show them what path to follow to obtain the goals they seek. But those survival skills I learned in the Arctic and discuss in my book didn’t apply here. I needed something else. I needed faith I would get a good result. I needed hope everything was going to be okay, but no one was willing to give me that hope I needed. 

I have heard faith defined as “confident expectation” and hope defined as “an optimistic state of mind based upon a positive outcome.” When I gave my situation of the CT scan results more thought, I realized it was hope I needed – a confident expectation – my result would be good in order to have peace of mind. And it was the quest for hope that pushed me to get the CT scan result I needed so I would know what to expect next. 

Isn’t that what we need now with the coronavirus issue facing us? We need faith – a confident expectation – it will work itself out and hope that ultimately we will all be soon back to living our lives as usual.

As a medical professional, I have no doubt this virus will spread. And with global travel the way it is now, the world is small and diseases of all types will make their way around the world with nothing to stop them. But it is just like Ebola, Zika, Avian Flu, Influenza (that kills 600,000 to 700,000 people globally yearly), polio, HIV, and countless other infectious diseases that have plagued mankind over the centuries. I have every confidence this coronavirus issue will pass also, eventually to become part of our global history just as these and other conditions have done over the millennia.  

I have a confident expectation this will happen. I have faith and hope. You should too.

We gain hope when we take action. That’s why it’s important to follow tips given to us by the CDC and other reputable health organizations to lower our risk of contracting the coronavirus. Wash hands and use hand sanitizer, avoid touching mucous membranes of the face, sneeze into a paper tissue and discard the tissue, taken zinc and use zinc lozenges to boost the immune system, and don’t panic!

Indeed, taking action gives us hope – a confident expectation that all will turn out well. And that’s a part of the human condition we all can benefit from in this time of uncertainty and discontent.