I can generally put my patients into one of five categories: innocent, uninformed, ignorant, stupid, or terminally idiotic. If the uninformed, ignorant, or stupid ones survive and leave my hospital having learned nothing, either I haven't done my job properly or they don't have the brain power to learn anything. Fortunately the subject of this post fits into both "innocent" and "uninformed". At least he used to.
The subject isn't even a patient of mine - he's a teenaged reader of this blog. I get fan mail every so often (a huge thanks to all those who send it, by the way), but this one is the most powerful yet. I received this particular email from him a few days ago, and it perfectly illustrates the potential power of words. In case you're wondering, I have his approval to publish it. I'm still keeping it anonymous for his protection:
I recently stumbled onto your blog, I think from FML or something, and I wanted to thank you. I never really wore seat belts before I read your blog. Incredibly stupid, yes? I just never thought about it. My parents always tell me to, but they don't enforce it and they don't wear a seat belt unless they're driving, and only sometimes at that. I highly respect you as a person and as a surgeon, and I felt the need to thank you for probably saving my life in the future. I put on a seat belt without even thinking about it, after a week or so of consciously putting it on.
Again, thank you.
Sure I can save your life by putting your body back together, but sometimes saving lives is a passive thing made possible by prevention. So to this reader (and whomever else may have learned something):
You're very welcome.