DCW’s Mantra

DCW’s Mantra

One Day at a Time
Stay in the Moment
Do the Next Right Thing
Never Give Up

Some years ago, I attended an Emergency Medical Support (EMS) conference in Marquette. As an EMT, I am required to attend training sessions and submit proof of them when I recertify with the state every 3 years. The keynote speech of this particular conference was given by EMS advocate and emergency physician Dennis Whitehead. Honestly, I remember very little about his talk, but I do remember the second to the last slide in his presentation. It was titled DCW’s Mantra and had only 4 lines of text. He explained that this short list has helped him in his life.

I am not fast with pen and paper, and Dr. Whitehead very fast with his mouth. Before I was able to copy the whole thing in my notebook, he had moved on to his last slide, which said something like, “Thank-you, Questions?” Doc got a deserved standing ovation for his talk that day, and I was left with an incomplete mantra in my notebook. What to do?

After his talk, Doc was quickly surrounded by well-wishers with questions. His laptop on the podium was unguarded. From my seat front row/center, I walked up to the podium, found the back-arrow button on his computer, punched it, and beheld the second to the last slide up on the screen (sometimes it pays to know how to run PowerPoint.) I sat back down, finished copying the mantra, and then hurried to my next class.

When I got home, I transcribed those powerful words onto my computer, printed them out, and posted them on the bulletin board next to my computer screen. They have been there ever since. Not only has this simple wisdom helped me, but I’ve shared with others too. Over the years as other family and friends needed some encouragement, Alice and I have sent the mantra along and received thanks.

Recently one of our dear friends had a medical issue and Alice sent her an email which included the mantra. Her husband transcribed the text onto a sheet of paper and taped it on the closet door along with some artwork from other well wishers. If I were in a hospital bed, that is the sort of thing I’d like to look out and see. It is sometimes hard to know what to do in situations like these, and those few simple words might provide a clue.

I was so pleased with the good that Alice’s email had done, that I searched and found Dr. Whitehead’s email address, and sent him an email explaining how his words had helped in my life and others’ over the years. Here is his response slightly edited:

Hi Ted:

A great pleasure to hear from you. I’ve given many talks over the years to EMS groups and emergency physicians, and I’m always delighted to hear something I once said had “good legs” and helped others. I’m gratified to learn this was one of them.

You made my day. Maybe we’ll run into one another sometime. Happy New Year to you and yours.


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