I never wanted to need to meet these doctors. But, their investments in my life story have helped to build trusting relationships that prove I’m not just another broken body to fix. Their collaboration and dedication to whole-person-care are evidence of their desires for success to go beyond what appears to be fixed on an x-ray. Their dreams are bigger than that. Their dreams are for my life experience to be far greater than it might have been without their intervention.

These are the reasons they meet Thursday mornings. No patient would ever want to be in a life situation that requires his or her case to be chosen as the discussion topic during one of these meetings, but should feel privileged to be the center of focus should that be necessary. After sustaining devastating injuries from a gunshot wound at Columbine High School in 1999, I’ve been the discussion topic several times over the past couple of decades, and I’m better because of it. I’m better because the people talking about me during these sessions are doctors from different specialties, dreaming together on my behalf. Dr. Daniel Lerman describes it like this, “Collaborative patient care occurs daily in Internal Medicine fields—often times different medicine subspecialists (e.g. cardiologist, nephrologists, etc.) work together to provide optimal care of the same patient. At the Institute for Limb Preservation (ILP), we merely work to provide the same level of specialized, dedicated care in the surgical arena, where the barriers to collaborative care are numerous. Surgeons are expected and encouraged to reach out to colleagues for help in providing the best surgical care possible.  It requires dedication of the individuals, and the institution, in order for the ideal of collaborative care to be realized—many working together to provide cutting edge, limb and life-salvaging patient care. Given the technical challenges involved with many of these complex cases, it is not realistic to behave as if one person is THE expert in all aspects of surgical care. Therefore, collaborating intraoperatively with other surgical specialists allows us to provide a dedicated specialist for each element of a given procedure. This means teaming up with plastic surgeons, vascular surgeons or even other orthopedic surgical specialists.” Doctors who set aside personal agendas to lean on the specialized skills of their peers to accomplish an outcome far greater than they could achieve on their own.

All doctors have dreams, and many of those started when they were kids. For Dr. Lerman and Dr. Kareem Sobky, the dreams for their careers began as young boys, both watching the dedication and drive of parents and other family members to make positive impacts on the lives of others through their work efforts. Dr. Sobky says, “I’m a fifth-generation doctor. I’ve always admired and been motivated by my family’s history of caring for people. For me, success is performing an excellently executed surgery that results in my patient being able to live with less pain and more function.”

Despite a murderer destroying my right arm and hand while trying to take my life, I’m living a wonderful life, partly because I have been lucky enough to be treated by doctors who know their work on my body is capable of adding quality and wholeness to my entire being. I’m thankful to have found doctors who are willing to build up each other as they work together to build better functioning bodies for their patients.

As I have written in the past, in our home, we call our hearts love buckets. Each day, our choices either fill or empty the buckets of those around us. These doctors, while working to restore broken bodies, have helped to refill the buckets of their patients by providing hope and options for quality living. I like to imagine what might become of our world if we each realize that our daily efforts impact those around us in ways we may never know about. Perhaps when we choose think outside of ourselves enough to appreciate the skills and gifts of others, we can team up and build villages full of castles constructed by overflowing love buckets.