Author: Daniel, Bert

Good Mistakes
 

We all know what bad mistakes are. They happen all the time. We wanted to do something good and instead something bad happened and the result was regrettable. In retrospect it was a bad idea in the first place but we didn't have enough experience to realize that before we made the error.

In the medical field mistakes are, generally speaking, a bad idea. People expect perfection when their life is on the line, as well they should. The stakes are pretty high. If you leave a towel in someone's abdomen while you're taking out their infected gallbladder you may get a call a few months later from their lawyer. And if you amputate the wrong limb you'll make headlines and be in big trouble. Nobody's perfect but if you want to hang around very long doing anything as a profession, you'd better do your very best to try to be absolutely perfect.


But every now and then a mistake happens that turns out good. Our species would not be where it is today without the random errors that occurred in the DNA of our ancestors. Those mistakes gave them a competitive advantage over the average Joe and Jolene. Some of those other humanoids died off while our ancestors lived on to pass along their genetic inheritance to us.

Even in medicine there are good mistakes. They don't get the publicity that bad mistakes get, but I can assure you they do happen. I'll never forget one particular day when I was a second year medical student and couldn't find the patient I was supposed to do a routine physical exam on. He had volunteered to let a student get some experience interviewing him about his illness, flashing a light in his eyes, looking down his throat, tapping out his liver, etc. As an inpatient at the VA, I'm sure he had nothing better to do that day but I was still glad someone had volunteered to be my guinea pig and I was miffed that I couldn't find him.

I checked with my instructor and he found me another patient for my physical exam. Later on I checked on my original patient to make sure he was OK. It turned out he had wound up in x ray for a procedure called a barium enema. It's a procedure rarely done these days in which the radiologist instills a chalky substance into the colon and takes a picture. Then after you expel the barium they pump your colon full of air and take another picture. It's not fun.

The funny thing is my patient wasn't even supposed to be there in the first place. The procedure had been ordered for another patient! He must have just figured whatever. These doctors know what they're doing and i'll do whatever they say. He underwent an uncomfortable procedure on trust and it was a total mistake.

Except it wasn't a mistake. An early stage colon cancer was discovered and my patient was operated on and cured. This was in the days before routine colonoscopy screening and my patient was extremely fortunate to have had an unnecessary procedure that saved his life. Sometimes a mistake can be good.

By the time this column runs I will be heading back from Grass Valley after a joyful week of playing music with many of you who are reading this column now. You will not have given me any grief about any of the jamming mistakes I made along the way, even though I might have deserved it.

On the other hand those occasional inspired riffs I happened to unexpectedly spill out that just blew you away? Maybe I can take credit for it and maybe not. It might just be something I tried to play but I messed up and it turned out better than I thought. I'll never tell.

Last month I saw Dan Levenson play some really great music with Bob Carlin at Cloverdale. I'll stand by Dan's quote:

"There are no mistakes in playing music, only notes you didn't intend to play. If you find a note you don't like, well, don't play that one next time."

Monday, June 17, 2013

We all know what bad mistakes are. They happen all the time. We wanted to do something good and instead something bad happened and the result was regrettable. In retrospect it was a bad idea in the first place but we didn't have enough experience to realize that before we made the error.

In the medical field mistakes are, generally speaking, a bad idea. People expect perfection when their life is on the line, as well they should. The stakes are pretty high. If you leave a towel in someone's abdomen while you're taking out their infected gallbladder you may get a call a few months later from their lawyer. And if you amputate the wrong limb you'll make headlines and be in big trouble. Nobody's perfect but if you want to hang around very long doing anything as a profession, you'd better do your very best to try to be absolutely perfect.


But every now and then a mistake happens that turns out good. Our species would not be where it is today without the random errors that occurred in the DNA of our ancestors. Those mistakes gave them a competitive advantage over the average Joe and Jolene. Some of those other humanoids died off while our ancestors lived on to pass along their genetic inheritance to us.

Even in medicine there are good mistakes. They don't get the publicity that bad mistakes get, but I can assure you they do happen. I'll never forget one particular day when I was a second year medical student and couldn't find the patient I was supposed to do a routine physical exam on. He had volunteered to let a student get some experience interviewing him about his illness, flashing a light in his eyes, looking down his throat, tapping out his liver, etc. As an inpatient at the VA, I'm sure he had nothing better to do that day but I was still glad someone had volunteered to be my guinea pig and I was miffed that I couldn't find him.

I checked with my instructor and he found me another patient for my physical exam. Later on I checked on my original patient to make sure he was OK. It turned out he had wound up in x ray for a procedure called a barium enema. It's a procedure rarely done these days in which the radiologist instills a chalky substance into the colon and takes a picture. Then after you expel the barium they pump your colon full of air and take another picture. It's not fun.

The funny thing is my patient wasn't even supposed to be there in the first place. The procedure had been ordered for another patient! He must have just figured whatever. These doctors know what they're doing and i'll do whatever they say. He underwent an uncomfortable procedure on trust and it was a total mistake.

Except it wasn't a mistake. An early stage colon cancer was discovered and my patient was operated on and cured. This was in the days before routine colonoscopy screening and my patient was extremely fortunate to have had an unnecessary procedure that saved his life. Sometimes a mistake can be good.

By the time this column runs I will be heading back from Grass Valley after a joyful week of playing music with many of you who are reading this column now. You will not have given me any grief about any of the jamming mistakes I made along the way, even though I might have deserved it.

On the other hand those occasional inspired riffs I happened to unexpectedly spill out that just blew you away? Maybe I can take credit for it and maybe not. It might just be something I tried to play but I messed up and it turned out better than I thought. I'll never tell.

Last month I saw Dan Levenson play some really great music with Bob Carlin at Cloverdale. I'll stand by Dan's quote:

"There are no mistakes in playing music, only notes you didn't intend to play. If you find a note you don't like, well, don't play that one next time."
 
Posted:  6/17/2013



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