You don’t always have to communicate by talking if you are transparent enough to let people see the love that is in your heart.
One of the most proud and impressive episodes that occurred in Project C.U.R.E.’s history of helping needy hospitals around the world took place in the country of Ukraine. I began traveling to Ukraine shortly after the collapse of the old Soviet Union. By 1996, Project C.U.R.E. was not only helping to change the health care system in Kiev and smaller cities, like Zitomer, but also, in the university city of Vinnitsa. In addition to donating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical goods into the Pirogov Medical University in Vinnitsa, we had also donated and shipped over eighteen tons of medical library books to the university’s library. With that gift they could boast of having the finest English language medical library in all Eastern Europe.
I returned to the old Soviet Union and to Ukraine in September, 1996, with Dr. Mark Johnson and several other wonderful people from Vanderbilt University. It was Dr. Johnson’s first venture away from the sophisticated hospitals of Nashville, Tennessee and the Vanderbilt Medical Community. He was young, but had already gained a great deal of respect in the medical community as an urologist. In addition to the donated medical goods brought to Vinnitsa by Project C.U.R.E., Dr. Johnson spent his own money to purchase urological items that he intended to leave at the university when he returned to the U.S.
Dr. Johnson's mission was to find and train the medical university’s finest urology and obstetrics/gynecology surgeons and professors. He would instruct them in the use of the advanced techniques, and then leave the high‑tech instruments for them. They would be the first in the whole area of the old Soviet Union to be trained in how to use the equipment and perform the procedures.
The targeted university doctors and a few nurses were approached and invited to a meeting at 10:30 the next morning in a consultation room near the operating theaters. A Ukrainian translator agreed to be there to interpret for us. At 10:30 we had all gathered in the room . . . everyone that is except the translator. We quickly burned up the few known Russian and English words of greeting as we introduced ourselves to each other. But, still there was no translator. All were glancing at their watches. These were very busy people.
Then Dr. Johnson did a brilliant thing. He said nothing, but smiled and took the laparoscope and the cystoscope out of their storage cases, along with some containers of capsules, and carefully placed them on the conference table. Next, he took out a black felt pen and some paper and started drawing pictures. The doctors and nurses looked around at each other and smiled at this creative young doctor who wanted to share with them so much that he was not going to let a little thing like a spoken language get in the way of their communicating. The doctors and nurses closed in tightly around Dr. Johnson so they could better see what he was drawing. Now, they were talking the same language, body language.
In the old Soviet Union they were experiencing a lot of problems with gynecological oncology, urinary incontinence, cysts, uterus bleeding, bladder and kidney infections, and also, dysfunctional prostates in males. Up to that time, the only surgical method available was highly invasive surgery. And in Ukraine those procedures were fairly archaic and crude.
As Dr. Johnson proceeded with his art class the physicians began to chatter. Some could not keep their hands off the scopes that were on the table. With the scopes and some pictures, Dr. Johnson began to demonstrate the new concept of minimally invasive diagnostics and surgery. Some of the surgeons had either read a little about the procedures or had seen pictures in medical journals. But this was the first time they had someone explain to them the use of the instruments . . . especially with the unique method of not employing words. They knew well their own problems and recognized quickly the advantages of decreased blood loss, decreased pain, less chance of infection from the surgery, and shorter stays in the hospital.
Dr. Johnson ended up spending most of the day with the university doctors. As you can imagine, by that time they had translators galore! Their delight could hardly be contained when they realized that the new equipment would be left with them for the future. They begged Dr. Johnson to join them in the operating theater the next morning, where they would have him operate on their patients and allow them to further experience the use of the scopes. They even invited him to dinner that evening to celebrate their new friendship.
The next morning we all put on our scrubs and went into the operating theater. Dr. Johnson’s new friends placed on his head the typical tall, Russian stovepipe surgical hat indicating their love and respect for him. Most visitors to their university hospital, who experienced the situation where the translator failed to show up, would have just packed up and headed back to the hotel. But Dr. Johnson’s care and concern for them compelled him to set aside the necessity of communicating with words. He became transparent enough to allow the doctors and nurses to see into his heart and respect him for his willingness to bypass the need to use words.
I wonder, how many times in the past my communications would have been far more effective had I just stopped the flow of words, proceeded with my task, and been transparent enough to let others see the intent of my heart?