Many years ago, I was determined to catch the big game fish.  It was in the early days of the internet and I had some challenges, but I discovered which fishing boat held the world’s record for the biggest game fish.  It was a rig out of Lanai on the island of Maui in Hawaii.  It cost me a fortune to rent it for the entire day.  The day arrived and we set out to sea.

Once a year, there is a phenomenon off Hawaii called “the doldrums” in which there are no waves, no wind, nothing.  The water becomes crystal clear and one can see down to almost 300 feet.  When the water is this clear, everything that swims down there goes deep to avoid predators.  The usually murky water affords some measure of protection from being seen.

Well, this particular day was the doldrums.  For eight hours, we drifted along without a single nibble.  I imagine the captain knew this at the outset, but what was he going to tell a starry-eyed mainlander who was intent on catching Moby Dick?  We finally gave up and headed back towards port.  The Pacific sun is bright and intense and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  I fell asleep on the deck and was out for a long nap.  I was wearing only a swimming suit.

I paid the price because I was lobster red on arrival back home and contracted sun poisoning.  It’s like a bad sunburn, but much worse.  I required medical attention.  Even today, years later, I am still on the lookout for skin changes.

Most days, we swim around in the murky milieu of life, oblivious to the protection that our surroundings afford us from the perils of everyday life.  Occasionally, we enter the doldrums and fall asleep on the deck.  When the waves and wind return, we’re not anticipating them and we get into trouble.  The sunburns we get can haunt us like errors in judgment and mistakes we’ve made.  There are predators in the seas of our lives and we can’t depend on the murkiness of the waters to keep us safe.  We and we alone are responsible for our own safety and wellbeing.

Richard E. Draper, a double board-certified emergency medicine physician, blogger, and speaker, and practices in the Kaleidoscope Weekly distribution area. The Healer’s Heart is based on his perceptions and observations of his experiences in the ER over his career. Any similarities to actual patients are purely coincidental.

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