Does This Help?

I sat on the edge of the examining chair and held out my right arm, palm facing up, while the fine gentleman nurse put the blood pressure cuff around my arm and pushed the start button. As he watched the numbers climb, he asked,“What do you think - up or down?” “Well, I feel good,” I replied. “Maybe it’ll be lower this time.”

“Why do you say that? You’ve been coming here for treatment every Monday for a month-and-a-half. You aren’t nervous, are you?”

“Well, not so nervous since you don’t have the scary pictures on the wall.”

The Wound Management Center at Midland Memorial Hospital recently moved around the corner to a new set of rooms, which means they haven’t found places for everything yet, which means they haven’t hung the poster with photos of scary diabetic ankle sores, which means, I’m sure, my blood pressure and heart rate will be lower since I won’t be worrying about my ankles.

I told the nurse, “if I keep coming back long enough you’ll have me convinced my ankle looks like that.”

I am always amazed at what a doctor puts on the walls of an examining room. You would think it would be pictures of people living healthy lives, or beautiful scenery, or those warm family-friendly paintings everyone loves. It seems those would be more conducive to the healing process, a goal to move toward.

But maybe what they have in mind is closing the sale, convincing the visitor there is really something wrong with them so they will feel good about their visit. “Oh look, I have that, and that, and that, wrong with me. Good thing I came to the doctor, today.”

I have a friend who is an “eyeball doctor” (his terminology) and one time I went to his office and he had photos of sick and diseased eyes. I once told him, “This makes my eyes all watery just looking at these photos.”

Another time, about ten years ago, I was in my doctor’s office for, you guessed it, to have my blood pressure checked and recorded (a reoccurring theme it seems), when I noticed an old Time Magazine on the counter. Well, it wasn’t old by doctor’s office standards, but old for you and me. And on the cover was a photo of Charles Manson and his haunting eyes. He is still scary, even in a grainy photograph, even after all these years.

“I don’t think it is a good idea to leave Charles Manson laying around the room while you’re checking blood pressure. I am sure that photo alone is worth 10-15 points,” I said.

“At least we don’t have Helter Skelter playing over the sound system,” said the nurse who was too young to have owned the White Album.

Much to my surprise, my blood pressure was better in spite of the Charles Manson effect. Maybe the scary pictures on the wall and on the magazine actually comfort patients rather than frighten them. Patients think, “Well, at least I am not that bad.”

I am in the middle of teaching the Old Testament book of Job in our young adult Bible study class, and one thing you notice when reading Job is how much bad advice and unhelpful counsel there is. Causes me to wonder, how often do I think I’m helping someone when actually doing the opposite? Do I have any scary pictures on my wall that it’s time to take down?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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