To Get Well or to Die…Decisions, Decisions


I hope that title caught your attention, because 40 years ago those words caught Pete Egoscue’s attention. Some of you know Pete’s story, but I’m sure a lot of you don’t, so allow me to share part of it from the book Pain Free.

The doctors thought I was unconscious–a reasonable assumption in an intensive car ward of a U.S. hospital ship filled with newly arrived Vietnam combat casualties. They stopped at the cot next to mine, where an army captain moaned in agony. He had been shot in the stomach several days before. The soldier was so badly hurt, he never slept, never talked to anyone, never fell into the arms of a merciful silence. There was only the stark, unremitting sound of a human being in pain, punctuated by the beeping of heart monitors.

The doctors looked at his chart and made a brief examination of the massive wound. One of them asked, “Think he’ll make it?” I heard the clipboard that held the man’s medical record drop back into its holder. I wanted to turn my head to see if they were talking about me, but couldn’t manage it. Too many tubes and too much pain of my own.

The other doctor answered with such a matter-of-fact tone that today I imagine him shrugging as he said, “You either get well or you die.”

The young captain died a couple of days later. I’ve been thinking about him and what the doctor said for nearly thirty years. The comment struck me then, as it does now, with the force of a profound truth. The doctor, whether he was aware of it or not, was recognizing that there comes a point when modern medical techniques must give way to the body’s own inner logic, mechanisms, and intentions. Despite all the hardware, surgical talent, antibiotics, and pain-killers, you either get well or you die.

That was Pete’s lightbulb moment. His “Ah-ha!” moment. At that moment, everything changed for Pete, and subsequently…you. Pete realized that he had a choice to make.

What you might not realize is that you have a choice as well. Your body can heal. Your body can change. Your current condition can improve.

Will you let it?

Will you get well?

QUESTION: What have you decided?