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Another Stockdale Paradox

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jul 1, 2013

Life isn’t fair, so get over it.

An uphill, long, sweeping, right hand turn announces our entry onto the University of Iowa campus and the passage that leads to the University of Iowa Clinic and Hospital.  It reminds me to be grateful.  I am out of a hospital room and able to spend my days and nights with my family.  It occurred to me the morning of my clinic visit Wednesday just how restricted and confined I felt when I just a year ago at this time was fettered to my room in the hospital. 

A feeling of exhilaration and happiness runs through me appreciating where I’ve been and all the support I’ve received.  Thank you!

If you’ve never spent a night in a hospital room perhaps it doesn’t seem all that incarcerating.  Just the thought of my room, the smells, the bed, the hallways and the constant interruptions brings back frustration and unpleasant memories.  I began to cry, with a thankful heart, as we entered that curve, appreciating my freedom, and the help my wife Michelle and so many others have provided for me. 

While my progress continues, this clinic visit we wanted to discover why the swelling in one of my legs had diminished while the other had not.   The Physician Assistant wasn’t sure.  She suggested an MRI of my left leg, the one still swollen. I really preferred not to at this time. Our appointment was late and I was anxious to return home.  Dr. Silverman must have thought it was a good idea.  Despite approaching 5 PM, she scheduled an appointment for me.  Before the MRI was over the attendant conducting the test had already discovered the problem:  A blood clot in my left leg near my knee cap and calf.  Apparently these are common for bone marrow transplants.  My foot looks like a Troll, as does my calf.  The clot is apparently restricting blood flow in my leg and thus creating the swelling.  I don’t have to tell you the danger that a blood clot might cause if it dislodges here and enters my heart or my lungs.

The good news is I’m not headed for a hospital room, although my hopes of being less restricted and able to get out, exercise, and socialize more will be derailed for at least the next week or two.  The solution is to administer a shot twice a day for two months or more. 

It’s another reminder of the Stockdale Paradox, describe the image“Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.” 

The Stockdale Paradox has given me faith and hope against tremendous odds.  Yet in the past 6-8 weeks the burden of this has been weighted by another discovery.  My youngest son, Noah, has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  He is just 14.   He’s not the age that one would expect someone to get this type of disease.  He’s bright, an accomplished musician, and outgoing boy.  A virus hit him about 8-10 weeks ago causing a temperature of over 104 degrees at times.  The doctors believe this is what initiated the disease.  Immediately after the virus left Noah began having severe aches and pains in his knee, neck, ankles and arm.  He’s not able to extend his left arm fully making it impossible for him to practice his bass. He practiced as often as three times a day.  Michelle recently caught him trying to play and crying because he couldn’t.  I can’t tell you how painful it is to see your child restricted from doing what he loves. 

I’m hopeful the doctors are wrong about their diagnosis.   I’m hopeful that at 14 Noah doesn’t have a life full of pain ahead of him and that they can find a cure or medication to alleviate his painful symptoms. 

My pain and suffering pales in comparison to what I see restricting my son’s life. Satruday night my wife and her mother spent hours agonizing with him, crying about his condition, the continuous pain he’s in, and the restricted movement that deprives him of time he could spend playing the instrument he loves.  Noah walks with a limp due to swelling and an inability to fully extend his knee.  It hurts just to watch.  His elbow, knee, and neck ache continuously. 

Why is this young man afflicted with this?  Where’s the justice in life?   

I can assure myself that I will recover.  I can apply the Stockdale Paradox and believe it.  Can I do the same for Noah?

Being out of a hospital room, being able to spend time with my family, provides an enormous burst of appreciation and joy.  If you’ve not appreciated the freedom of movement, the joy of being able to do as you please every day, take a moment and recognize the gift you’ve been given.  Breathe it in and enjoy what you have.  It can be taken away from you in an instant. 

You’ve heard stories perhaps of rock bands demanding in their performance contracts no brown M&M’s in their backstage setups.   Is this the act of a diva or is there some method behind the madness?  Discover which next blog! 

Topics: Acute Myeloid Luekemia, Stockdale Paradox

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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