A Mountain To Climb Chapter 13: Down the Other Side

We last left off with Arthur visiting Pearl, telling her what happened at the school during the pray-a-thon. The teachers from the college are sure at this point that God is going to heal Pearl, but nobody seems to be doing anything for her. We still have not gotten a satisfactory explanation for why they are taking the “wait around and see” approach when Pearl’s very life is in danger.

The chapter opens with Pearl telling the nurse she slept really well last night.

When the doctor stopped by later that morning, he was surprised at the change in his patient. Her pulse and respiration checked normal.

“You’re the strangest patient I’ve ever had,” he said. “I think you were scared yesterday.”

Well no shit. Of course she was scared. It turns out that fear could slow down Pearl’s heart rate if she’d been anxious before and then suddenly calmed down. This would not last long, and it would be consistent with a “nonexistant” weak pulse for ten minutes. Combined with the drugs that we are told made Pearl sleepy, it’s a semi-plausible explanation. It still doesn’t explain why the doctor suddenly didn’t want to operate the minute her pulse got detectable.

The doctor takes off the bandages on Pearl’s leg to have a look at it.

The pain shot through her leg and she screamed as she always did. but when the tar was finally off, he exclaimed in surprise.

“Not a sign of gangrene,” the doctor shook his head. “My girl, you’re a living miracle.

Ummm what?

First off, let’s address the terms he’s using. The doctor is using the term “gangrene” as though it is synonymous with “blood poisoning.” Are they the same thing? Would they have been considered synonyms in 1930s Trinidad? I’m not sure about that last one, but a cursory reading of the always reliable Wikipedia would suggest that they are a little different. Does Pearl have blood poisoning (referred to in medical terms as “sepsis”) or does she have gangrene?

I feel like this is an important distinction, because one is possibly treated quite differently than the other.

Can either sepsis or gangrene suddenly reverse course like that? It would appear that the odds of this happening are extremely low. However, we haven’t really gotten an actual diagnosis. The doctor keeps throwing out words like, “pneumonia,” “blood poisoning,” and “gangrene” like they are all interchangeable, and they’re really not.

So, what exactly is going on here? Did the doctor just not have a concrete diagnosis for Pearl? Did they surgeries she’s had to remove infected tissue all of a sudden start working? Did they finally try some new drug?

There are just so many details of this case that are unknown. If a doctor from the 21st century were to pour over the medical records, examine the technology being used at the time, and then tell me this is still a miracle, I’d take it with a grain of salt, but I’d be more inclined to believe it. For now, I don’t think we have sufficient evidence to say one way or another whether or not any of this is miraculous.

The doctor says that all they need to do now is “Fatten Pearl up and send her back to school.”

But it was not just fattening up that was necessary. Pearl’s whole system needed strengthening. he ordered a diet of eggs, grape juice, liver, milk, and bemax cereal (similar to wheat germ), in addition to fruits and vegetables.

In the Bible, nearly all of the people Jesus healed (with maybe one or 2 notable exceptions) were healed 100% fully as soon as Jesus spoke the words. People who hadn’t walked in years (or who were cripples for life) would suddenly get up, start walking and jumping around, etc. Now, I do not believe the events of the Bible actually happened, BUT if they had all happened in that way, why is Pearl singled out to be different? If God had truly healed her, why can’t she just get up and walk right now? Why is he taking so long?

Because the Bible and this book both fall into the “not really scientific” category, we’ll move on.

In this chapter we are introduced to Nurse Bitch, who first gets mad at Pearl for not eating all her food. Pearl says she’s too full to eat, and the nurse bitches her out for a bit because the doctor said Pearl has to eat all her food. Well then maybe the doctor shouldn’t have given her so much of it, because anyone who knows anything knows that people who haven’t eaten in a while can’t eat a lot of food.

In reality, I wonder if Nurse Bitch was actually less….well, bitchy. Maybe Pearl didn’t eat as much of her food as the doctor hoped, and they had a minor argument. Maybe this is made to look wore than it actually was because creative license.

At least, that is what I would think, if I hadn’t met some pretty bitchy nurses myself. Well ok, only one bitchy nurse…. who was a home caregiver…who I am silghtly related to…you know what, let’s just move on.

After a month Pearl was taken to the X-ray department. The pictures showed that the bones in her legs were beginning to heal.

Serious question: why wasn’t this checked out much sooner? Like, the minute the “gangrene” or “blood poisoning” or whatever it was showed signs of clearing up?

When the doctor goes to change the dressing later, the head nurse carries in a diaper.  Pearl doesn’t think anything of it until she starts screaming –the dressing is still very painful for her–and Nurse Bitch shoves the diaper into her mouth. (At this point, I’m guessing that this would be something very different from what *I* think of when I hear the word “diaper.”)

The doctor tells the nurse to take it out of her mouth, but Nurse Bitch refuses, because Pearl’s screams are disturbing the other patients.

Which…. I don’t like to admit it, but that is a fair point. People don’t heal well when they’re stressed, and hearing another patient screaming at the top of her lungs every few hours would probably be very stressful.

I’ve already talked about how the tar doesn’t seem to have any medicinal value, that it is only there to “reduce stench.” It is causing Pearl a lot of pain, and doesn’t seem to have any useful purpose for Pearl. If I were the doctor, I would’ve stopped using it quite some time ago. Otherwise, maybe the nurse could have a conversation with Pearl about how to handle the pain. Maybe ask if she wants a cloth in her mouth to bite on?

So, my main question is why isn’t this bitch fired? Well, apparently she’s been hired by the church to oversee the young nurses.

What church? The Catholic church? The lady at the desk was Catholic. Is the doctor? We aren’t told, and this seems like a glaring omission, especially in an Adventist book. Could you not send a letter to The Holy  Church of Whatever saying she’s not performing well? I mean, really.

“Don’t worry. She really is good on the inside.”

Small comfort to Pearl, I’m sure.

Afterward, Pearl lays in her bed and thinks.

“What could all this sickness and trouble mean, anyway? God really did send me a big mountain, much bigger than I ever dreamed possible. Life certainly has not been humdrum these last few months! And God has come  closer than ever before. I know this is going to pass away. It’s taking a long time, but I’ve passed the summit, and now I’m going down the other side. Dear God, thank You.”

Back when I was a Christian, I would have understood thinking like this. Now, however, I think this passage is disturbing in its implications.

First, it kinda blames Pearl for her own illness. She prayed for a mountain, and God gave it to her. It’s victim blaming, which alone makes me extremely uncomfortable. It also seems like it’s trying to excuse the real cause of Pearl’s issues: Lack of safety in the workplace.

Life has not been humdrum for Pearl in months, I will admit that that is true. However, what about after she gets better? Is life going to return to humdrum? Will she have to keep praying for another mountain, and then another? Pearl was happy with her life before, why can’t God just let her have a happy and enjoyable life?

It also makes God seem like kind of a douche. Like he wasn’t going to draw near to her unless she prayed for and got her mountain.

Can I explain what happened to Pearl? No. I am not a doctor, and I do not have access to all the details. The only people who did are probably dead by now. What little detail we do have is probably minimal, because this story happened in 1938 and got published in 1976. Between then, I imagine this story has been told multiple times. Human memory is extremely faulty. A lot of little details probably crept in that weren’t there before, and I don’t think that’s a result of anybody trying to lie to us. I honestly think that, at some point, Pearl and Arthur probably re-wrote their own memories of this event without even realizing that they were doing so. Read up about memory tampering, it’s quite fascinating.

What I do know is this: sometimes things don’t appear to have a scientific explanation. Does that mean that they do not, that the only option we can then turn to is something supernatural? I don’t believe so. I believe that, given enough time and barring a world wide catastrophe that destroys all scientific knowledge, science will eventually be able to explain everything.

Up next: Will Arthur be able to court Pearl? Will Pearl heal fully? I actually don’t care, the interesting part of this is over. The book could have ended here and not been any worse off. We also could have cut out the developing relationship with Arthur and Pearl, not because I’m against them having a romance, but because it’s kind of not central to the main plot, which is this mountain Pearl is climbing. But we need to pad out the length of the book, so screw any kind of central plot idea.


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