In House... / by Kendall R


House M.D.
Originally uploaded by Wojciech Scrat
During a six-week stint as medic for a camp outside of Austin, TX, I acquired a nickname: “House” – as in Dr. Gregory House, M.D. I’d like to think it was because of my brilliant diagnostic skills that routinely were tried at one o’clock in the morning after I’d been asleep for an hour, or that I was always right in the end, *wink. But I think it was more due to my ever increasing grizzled spirit that seemed to grow in proportion to the decrease in sleep… mostly from those wake-up calls at one o’clock in the morning. I often would introduce myself to the new batch of leaders by saying, “I’m not a doctor, but I resemble one played on TV.”

House tends to be a modern day Sherlock Holmes, constantly faced with tough diagnosis that stump everyone except him in the end, usually resolved by epiphanal “a-ha” in which some obscure connection explains the patient’s disease. House is also one mean, harsh, dry-witted, dark, disturbed character. He unabashedly tells the truth, almost out of spite. He’s a nihilist and a recovering addict with a severe wound that causes not only his limp but is the source of all his bitter rants and his addiction to Vicodin.

I recently watched the season finale of “House” - partly out of curiosity to see how much my nickname might be true, and partly because it was all filmed on a Canon 5D camera and looks amazing. In the finale, he is on-site of a catastrophic disaster, finds a woman trapped in the rubble and is forced to step outside of his usual hard-shelled, gruff self and be more human, more compassionate. At the same time, House is dealing with the fact that his romantic interest, Cuddy, is getting married to someone else. (SPOILER ALERT). After doing everything right to save the woman trapped in the rubble, she still dies… and he can’t make sense of any of it – been there before. It sends him into a downward spiral, topped by the fact that his hard-heartedness has shut-out the one woman he cares about. He’s a battered, crumpled mess in his bathroom getting ready to start using the Vicodin again, to kill the pain – not just in his leg – when Cuddy walks in and tells him she loves him. He says, “Do you think I can fix myself?... Because I’m the most screwed up person in the world.” Cuddy responds, “I know…I love you.” (House MD Season 6. episode 22)

My nickname was given as a joke. And even one of the guys I worked with said to me at the end of our time, “I know we call you House and all, but you aren’t. He’s a dick." Yet, for all the hullabaloo, I can see my self in the character. He’s smart enough to know what’s killing his heart and often times doesn’t engage it, doesn’t deal. He’s dying for human connection and yet finds it easier to live in the shallows, playing superior and isolationists. I’ve done all these things. We all end up on the bathroom floor sooner or later...

But, we change…. Or we die. And my gruffness with people over the last few weeks was nothing more than façade, painted by weariness. Regardless of my fatigue, when it came to caring for patients - a seemingly 25/7 never ending job – I listened and did my best to figure out what was going on, reassuring them that it wasn’t the end of the world.

I used to think I was “the most screwed up person in the world,” and the evidence to support such belief was epic. I may still have my edges that could use softening and wearing down – and they both come to light and melt as I live in, interact with others in community. My wounds shaped and defined me for too long, and I am still in the process of becoming the person I was made to be… and that person is so much larger and more alive than the wounded, crumpled soul on the bathroom floor. Our wounds might be as real the limp in House's leg, but there is more to walking than maintaining the limp. We get to run, and I am constantly being beckoned by graciousness and freedom to get out run further up, further in.

I am not a doctor, nor even the resemblance of one played on TV. But it sure makes for some comedic moments and humbling reality checks to see the similarities come to light…