Thursday, 15 November 2012

From childhood I suffered constant abdominal pain.  No doctor could ever diagnose the problem...that is, until I met George Johnston in 1972.  I was seriously ill then. He told me I had problems with my liver and he carried out an experimental operation which brought me great relief for a time. 
In the summer of 1974 the pains returned.  I soon regained that sickly, deep, yellow colour.  The whites of my eyes turned pure yellow as well.  I was quickly back in the Royal Victoria and subjected to the usual battery of blood tests, X-rays, and other investigations.  I was back in Ward 16 and lay there, thoroughly miserable.  It was as if I had never left.
Yet again I have to relate an incident that many will claim can easily be explained by natural and spontaneous bodily functions.  Nevertheless, the contiguity of events, the way things fell into a synchronous time pattern, has often caused me to reflect on the manner in which events slightly-beyond-normal have affected my life.  A couple of days after my return to Ward 16, an important Professor, accompanied by a substantial retinue of housemen, nurses and a Registrar, stopped by my bed.  He had my file in his hands.  After greeting me quite pleasantly, he said, “Your condition is quite serious, Mr. O’Hare.  I think we’ll have to operate right away.”
          Innocently I asked, “Will Mr. Johnston be doing the operation?”
“No!  Mr. Johnston is on holiday.  He is not due back until August. I will be operating myself.”
          Again in total innocence, and perhaps with a touch of desperation, but merely stating what I was feeling, I said, “With the greatest respect to you, Professor, I am sure you are quite brilliant at what you do.  But I have developed an enormous trust in Mr. Johnston.  I really would prefer to wait until he returns.”
It was only when several of his retinue recoiled in horror, while others stared at each other aghast and looked as if they wanted to dive under the various nearby beds, that I gathered that what I had said might have been deemed untoward.  In those days Consultants and Professors were the nearest things in hospitals to demigods, especially in a significantly famous hospital like the Royal Victoria. Mere mortals such as myself rarely spoke to, much less questioned, one of these deities.  Nonetheless, ignoring the consternation around me, I gazed in placid expectancy at the Professor as I awaited his response. 
He seemed somewhat nonplussed and, a touch uncertainly, he said, “As I said, Mr. O’Hare, your condition is very serious and Mr. Johnston will not be back for a month.  An immediate operation is almost certainly necessary.”
 I was becoming quite frightened now.  I could not tolerate the idea of anyone other than George operating on me.  I had little technical knowledge of my condition other than what I had gleaned from my conversations with George but, grasping a little desperately at straws, I asked, “Supposing the bile starts to flow again and the jaundice recedes, would it be O.K. then to wait for Mr. Johnston to return?”
         I can still see the Professor’s face.  He wasn’t doing anything but I knew he was metaphorically pulling at his hair and wondering how he could possibly have allowed this discussion to occur. “But…but…there’s no justification for…”
“Theoretically, sir?” I pressed. I had no idea why I was asking these questions.  They were in my head and they seemed important. 
The Professor wanted away from this. He said, “We’ll check with you again on Sunday evening.  If your condition hasn’t changed, we’ll have to operate.”
         A man of his hauteur could never allow himself to be seen to run but, I have to say, his departure did not have the same regal pace as his arrival.
         What happened after that was a little odd…strange…mysterious.  I had heard somewhere that with the application of sufficient mental force we can affect and influence the way our bodies function. There was something of this in my head as I questioned the Professor.  That was on Friday.  All of that night and during the next couple of days, I willed my bile ducts to unblock themselves and to allow the bile to flow.  I did not say any prayers nor ask for divine help.  It did not occur to me to do so.  I just lay interminably on my bed, concentrating on my condition, and mentally willing something to happen.
            The Professor returned on Sunday evening.  I had had blood tests a couple of times a day and he was reading my most recent results.  He expressed surprise at them, quoting some numbers relating to ‘enzymes’ and stating that my ‘biliruben’ count had dropped remarkably.  On top of that, he could see for himself that my jaundice was clearly receding.  Given the fact that there were no bile ducts left outside my liver to work with and that any operation would thus be experimental at best, he felt that  ‘the most appropriate course of action would be to do nothing’. They would observe my recovery over the next couple of days and, if my spontaneous recovery continued to progress, I would be sent home.
            I recall feeling no surprise at this. It was exactly what I had expected would happen.  I did not question it at the time.  I was relieved that no-one other than George Johnston would be poking around in my insides.  I did not consider that the event had anything of a spiritual dimension.  In fact, I had been telling the story for years as testament to the power of the mind over matter.  But reflecting on it now, I am not so sure, particularly when a week after the date I was told that George would be back from his holidays, I was back in Ward 16 in worse state than ever.  Did something in me, or outside of me, hold my condition in abeyance until George would be there to decide what to do about it?  I fully believed at that time that the hiatus was due to the power of my will.  Now I wonder if divine intervention was the cause because what George Johnston was to do after that was new, inventive, remarkable, and was to have an immense and far-reaching impact on the rest of my life.  I have little doubt that the Professor, given the originality and novelty of what George was to do, could never have dealt with the problem.

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