Dr. Terry A. Gordon

the wounded healer

The Eyes Are The Portal To The Soul

The eyes are the portal to the soul. I became more sensitive to that observation years ago when my son, Tyler demonstrated to me the significance of a gaze.

One morning he and I went to the home of a gentleman who was selling an antique oak bar we were considering putting in our basement. The seller was a very pleasant man with a warm smile.

We spent about an hour conversing with the guy and as we were walking back to our car, my four-year-old son shared with me his observation of the man whose home we had just left. His description blew me away when he said: “Dad, I really liked that man. He smiled through his eyes.”

How perceptive! Tyler had spotted something I had totally missed. Yes, I had noticed the gentleman’s kind demeanor, but Tyler had detected something on a much deeper level than I. As Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young once sang about teaching your parents well, I was the recipient of a valuable lesson; one taught me by my young, wiser-than-his-year’s son.It was through him that I became exquisitely aware of what the eye is capable of conveying.

Several months later, a 42 year-old man presented to the ER with a massive heart attack. Being the invasive cardiologist on call, I was paged immediately to the emergency room. During my initial conversation with the man, his eyes suddenly lost their focus as he had a cardiac arrest right before my eyes. One cannot imagine a more profound experience than knowing that you are the last one a person sees before his death. Fortunately I was able to shock his heart back into rhythm with a defibrillator, resuscitating him back to life.

His EKG showed that he was in the midst of a major myocardial infarction. His situation was quite tenuous; his life was in significant jeopardy. I suggested to him in the strongest of terms that we proceed to the cardiac cath lab to perform an emergent heart catheterization on him. It was imperative that we attempt as soon as possible to open what I knew to be his totally blocked major coronary artery; one we commonly refer to as the “widow-maker”.

To my dismay, he absolutely refused to proceed with any procedures until his wife arrived. As hard as I tried to convince him otherwise, he was resolute in his decision.

Upon her ultimate arrival over an hour later, I rushed back into his room and with his wife at his bedside began my urgent plea for them to allow me to proceed with the emergent procedure. I explained in quite explicit terms that with or without the emergent procedure, he could very well die. . . that in fact he had already died once already.

It was no sooner than those words left my lips that I felt the presence of someone else in the room. As I turned my gaze toward the corner of the room, seated on a foot stool was his nine year old daughter. She was the same age as my daughter, Laila. As our eyes met, I could see the absolute fear in her eyes as they began welling up with tears.

I was halted in my tracks. As I knelt down in front of her, tears began welling up in my eyes as well. In life or death circumstances such as this, being able to maintain objectivity and focus are critical in being able to make split second decisions that will impact the outcome. But at this moment, when I peered into this child’s frightened eyes, I refocused on what she was experiencing. I pictured myself as the patient and hoped that if it were I in that bed that my physician would have the compassion and sensitivity to take the time to offer an explanation to my daughter at her level in order to allay her fears.

In measured words I carefully described her father’s condition and offered reassurance to this young child that her Daddy would, indeed, be okay. As I softly spoke to her, I could see relief slowly enter her beautiful eyes as a single tear slowly trickled down her cheek. I dabbed her cheek, drying her tear and gave her a heartfelt hug as if she were my own.

Ultimately her father did well after undergoing an angioplasty. He was discharged about a week later and continues to do well to this day. 

Shortly thereafter, my eyes unfortunately viewed a video of the final moments of the life of Josh Miller, a wonderful young man who while playing high school football one Friday night, collapsed. Sadly in front of his teammates, his friends and in front of his parents . . . Josh died.

It would be the sad eyes of his father that propelled me on my mission of placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools.

Shortly after Josh’s death at a news conference, a reporter shoved her microphone in his father’s face and asked: “ Mr. Miller, these AEDs that you want to place in our schools cost over  $3,000 a piece.  Don’t you think that’s a lot of money?” 

Ken Miller is a man of few words. He looked down at his feet, gathered his thoughts and looked back up. A single tear trickled down his cheek as he looked directly at me. As our eyes met slowly shaking his head, he replied, “Ya know . . . It doesn’t seem like a lot of money to me!”

It was as if he were challenging me to do something about this, don’t let this happen again. Don’t let another child die needlessly. Don’t allow another child’s eyes to close, never to open again! Don’t let another family suffer as mine has. I vowed at that very moment that I would indeed do something about this injustice of nature.

Since that time, I have had the unfortunate, and yet, fortunate experience of having to look into the eyes of many parents who have lost their children to sudden cardiac arrest. Each of their gazes has become permanently emblazoned in my mind.

The precious eyes of my children, Mattie-Rose, Laila, Britt and Tyler are perhaps the greatest impetus for my drive to help protect children, for I cannot imagine losing one of them to something that could be perhaps preventable.

Yes, the eyes are the portals to the soul which is only temporarily housed in the vessel we call a body. Remember that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having but a temporary human experience…the eyes offer us a glimpse of that spirit as it looks back at us through the gaze.

4 thoughts on “The Eyes Are The Portal To The Soul

  1. Dr. Gordon…..
    You were my father’s cardiologist for many years. Both of my parents have always had only the nicest things to say about you. Now I understand why. What you have said here is beautiful and refreshing and so meaningful to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us….and more importantly thank you for taking such wonderful care of my father for all of those years. You have touched my life powerfully now in two ways and we’ve never even met. I wanted you to know that.

  2. Dear Dr. Gordon,
    You were my father’s cardiologist and you are a man who has a permanent place in my heart. I thank God everyday that you and my father were brought together. I, of course, wish he never needed your expertise, but I am eternally grateful that you were on my father’s path. Both my parents speak of you and your family often. I just want you to know that you and your family are in my prayers every night and I admire the work you do in bringing AEDs to schools.
    Thank you again for all that you have done for my family. My father recently celebrated his 70th birthday!!

    Kim Walburn Coan

  3. Dr. “TG” Gordon;
    You continue to inspire me my friend with your wonderfully well chosen words but more importantly with you “KIND Eyes”. I can see your SPIRIT through those KIND eyes and please know that you are making a difference. Love you MAN!! You pal forever, Ben Montgomery

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