We might lose this child


The team knows and I know that we are running out of time. The anesthesiologist looks up at me and I see the fear in his eyes. . . We might lose this child. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is like trying to clutch-start a car in second gear—it’s not very reliable, especially as we are continuing to lose blood. I am working blind, so I open my heart to a possibility beyond reason, beyond skill, and I begin to do what I was taught decades ago, not in residency, not in medical school, but in the back room of a small magic shop in the California desert. I calm my mind. I relax my body. I visualize the retracted vessel. I see it in my mind’s eye, folded into this young boy’s neurovascular highway. I reach in blindly but knowing that there is more to this life than we can possibly see, and that each of us is capable of doing amazing things far beyond what we think is possible. We control our own fates, and I don’t accept that this four-year-old is destined to die today on the operating table. I reach down into the pool of blood with the open clip, close it, and slowly pull my hand away. The bleeding stops, and then, as if far away, I hear the slow blip of the heart monitor. It’s faint at first. Uneven. But soon it gets stronger and steadier, as all hearts do when they begin to come to life. I feel my own heartbeat begin to match the rhythm on the monitor. Later, in post-op, I will give his mother the remnants from his first haircut, and my little buddy will come out of the anesthetic a survivor. He will be completely normal. In forty-eight hours, he will be talking and even laughing, and I will be able to tell him that the Ugly Thing is gone.”

~ James Doty, MD, from “Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart



  1. what a MOMENT…it is true…when faced with an impossible task…if we only sit back and breathe…calm ourselves…it can save the moment

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great writing and an amazing gift Neurosurgeon’s are to the world…..just one problem he states. “We control our own fates” “Ha ha ha bless your soul. You really think you’re in control?” Gnals Barkley

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow (she says as she begins to breathe once more…) Into the queue it goes….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David: I have sent this to several of my colleagues who deal with these issues every day. Thamks again for your thoughtful and profound posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. this one hit me very close to home, having lost a young nephew. the line between life and death is much finer than a spider’s thread. powerful stuff. sometimes we have to call on the magic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. WLS…my breathing grabbed and stopped, my begging began…and then a pent up exhalation and whispered ‘thank you’…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can feel what the surgeon felt. Love this piece David. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Magic is science we don’t understand yet. More physicians should consider themselves wizards working with forces beyond their control.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. To be able to calm his mind with so much riding on his every decision, his every move, with all that responsibility on his shoulders–that is a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This I know to be true. In this way we can ‘heal’ ourselves and others in countless situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A place

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That was well written!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fantastic. I’m in awe at the skill of surgeons, especially when working on saving the lives of small children with all their inner workings in miniature. The concentration and fine motor control it must take to carry out such complex surgery. And I love the way children often bounce back from such a major procedure, in a way that adults find so much harder.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Michael Zahaby says:

    Powerful! Very powerful

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Education and experience in the health care field only take our ability to a certain level. Believing that greater energies can be harnessed for uses beyond our cognitive awareness offers a choice few doctors ever know. Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: