… a tooth for a tooth. This is familiar territory to just about anyone, mentioned in the Torah, the New Testament, the Qur’an, and much earlier, in the Code of Hammurabi. In all those references, it has nothing to do with exacting revenge, but everything to do with promoting justice… limiting retribution… encouraging appropriate response.
Eye for an eye. Kidney for a kidney. I was thinking about this principle on the pre-op table because 1) body parts were admittedly on my mind, but also because 2) so was the concept of appropriate response. Whenever I’m laid up with a common ailment like the flu or a cold, the symptoms that make me miserable are not from the virus or bacteria directly, but usually from the barrage of white blood cells, antibodies, clotting agents, bodily fluids, inflammation, and fever that my body responds with in an effort to overwhelm and repel the invading force. It has always felt like overkill.
So there I sat, in the hospital smock that hid my nakedness just from me and no one else, legs dangling over the edge of the table, having turned not just the other but both cheeks to a cohort of pre-anaesthesia residents. They were trying to thread an epidural feed between two of my thoracic vertebrae that had apparently closed ranks. Now that’s an appropriate response to an invader, I thought to myself. A nice, local, you-can’t-come-in-here response.
As I was being repeatedly stabbed in the back, I wondered if it were possible for the body to field an appropriate local response to the flu, to a cold, to any illness in a way that wouldn’t be so taxing on the body as a whole. Not too much; not too little; a Goldilocks amount in just the right place. Then I wondered what I would do to help make that happen and immediately realized that was the wrong question. The right question was: “What would Diana do?”
That was easy. She would talk to herself, or rather to “her cells.” She normally listens to them first and then engages them in conversation, usually through imagery, dreams, and meditations. I had neither the time nor patience for that. With all the poking and prodding going on behind me, I was definitely in a telling mood.
Listen up cells, organs, skin, muscles… something drastic is coming your way. I know about this already. I approved it. You do not have to try to get my attention. What I’m looking for from you is an appropriate response, especially from you, capillaries and blood vessels. The surgeon says we’ll need a transfusion of at least two units of blood. That’s somebody else’s blood. Not ours! That’s just creepy. I don’t want it. So blood cells, plasma, whatever else is in there… when your vessel gets severed—and lots of them will—don’t pour out unless for some reason you have to. Just stop at the cut. Don’t go shooting out like a fire hose or you’ll get sucked up and thrown out. There’s no future in that.
I figured that about covered it. The senior resident finally found the sweet spot at T7.5 and threaded the needle. They wheeled me into the operating room, put a mask over my face, and I just barely had time to mutter, “See you in the healing glen, sweetie… “
About 1.25 seconds later, a very nice nurse in the post-op area was gently rubbing my shoulder, trying to wake me.
“ughm gabla’s yer name?” I asked.
“Tsomalie,” she replied, with an indulgent smile.
“umm asked you that before?” I deduced, mind clearing somewhat.
“This is the third time,” she laughed. “Do you also want me to tell you again how you didn’t bleed very much? How you didn’t need any of the two units of blood?”