Hope springs eternal

by Henrylito D. Tacio

A couple of years back, when I was in the United States, I had the opportunity of talking with a church pastor who happened to be an emergency medical technician, too. “I have worked with people who have attempted suicide,” he said. “I have worked with the families of suicide victims. In nearly every case, the families of victims reported a common factor about those who attempted suicide.

“The people become suicidal when they no longer could see any hope,” he continued. “They could neither see a reason to go on living nor anyone who was able to give them a reason to live. Living without hope means to experience a bleak, lonely and painful existence.”

Wishing and hoping are not the same thing. If you wish for something, you want it but don’t know whether you will receive it. To have hope is to expect and believe a thing will occur. “There is no medicine like hope, so incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow,” Orison Marden once said.

American author Norman Vincent Peale states, “Have you ever stopped to wonder what it is that keeps you going from one day to another? What lies behind your ability to fight your way through periods of discouragement or depression? What makes you believe that sooner or later bad times will get better? It’s a little, four-letter word that has enormous power in it. Power to bring failures back to success. Power to bring sick back to health. Power to bring the weak back to strength. It’s hope.”

In front of my desk is a copy of Reader’s Digest. One of the intriguing stories this particularly issue carried was that of the Reeves (yes, I am referring to Christopher Reeve and his wife, Dana, both now deceased). The “intimate portrait of a remarkable love” was told by the couple’s intimate friend, Ken Regan. Alanna Nash wrote the story.

“One of the life values that Dana taught me was about hope,” said Regan. On October 10, 2004, Christopher died. Four months later, Dana’s mother died after ovarian cancer surgery. That was in February, 2005 and by November of the same year, Dana’s father suffered a stroke. On March 6, 2006, Dana died of cancer at the age of 44.

Fortunately, a few months before her death, Dana taped an introduction to a PBS documentary called The New Medicine. “For years, my husband and I lived on – and because of – hope,” she told viewers. “Hope continues to give me the mental strength to carry on.”

Yes, despite all the tragedies she faced, Dana never lost hope. People who are sick are always banking on hope. When all things fail, there is always hope they can wait for. Norman Cousins pointed out: “The human body experiences a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope. That is why the patient’s hopes are the physician’s secret weapon. They are the hidden ingredients in any prescription.”

“We judge a man’s wisdom by his hope,” Ralph Waldo Emerson pointed out. Well, that was such the case of Dr. Thomas Starzl. As a surgery resident in medical school, he was very much interested in transplants. In 1958, he sewed new livers in dogs whose livers had been removed. Unfortunately, all dogs died within two days of the operation.

But his early experiments did not deter him to continue what he had started. He was hoping that one of these days, he would succeed. In 1959, he found a way to stabilize circulation and the dogs lived for a week after transplant. This is a good start, he may have told himself.

In March 1963, Dr. Starzl performed the first human liver transplant but his patient bled to death. That failure, and a hepatitis epidemic that spread through artificial kidney and transplant centers around the globe during the early 1960s, forced his liver program to be abandoned.

But the termination was not completely though. In 1968, Dr. Starzl and others reported results of new transplant trials to the American Surgical Association. All seven children involved in the study had survived transplants, although four died within six months – an encouraging but not stellar result. By 1975, only two liver programs were left in the world.

Then in May of 1981, Dr. Starzl and his team had success – 19 or 22 patients lived for long periods!

Lesson of the story: Dr. Starzl was criticized, even vilified, by the medical establishment for attempting transplantation – but he persevered. He was hoping all against hope that he will succeed – and he did! Today, liver transplantations are routinely performed in hospitals around the world. “He who does not hope to win has already lost,” said Jose Joaquin Olmedo.

Several proverbs have been written on hope. An ancient proverb reminds: “A misty morning does not signify a cloudy day.” How true, indeed. An Arabian proverb notes: “He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.” Rightly so. The Turkish proverb advices: “Things never go so well that one should have no fear, and never so ill that one should have no hope.” To which the English proverb warns: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

A lot of famous men have shared some ideas about the subject. “Hope is a waking dream,” said Aristotle. Francis Bacon quipped: “Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.” Emil Brunner compared: “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” Samuel Johnson noted: “In all pleasures hope is a considerable part.”

“Take from a man his wealth, and you hinder him; take from him his purpose, and you slow him down,” C. Neil Strait wrote. “But take from man his hope, and you stop him. He can go on without wealth, and even without purpose, for a while. But he will not go on without hope.” — ##

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