SEPTEMBER 13, 1938
ROCHESTER, Minn., Monday—As I said before, I dislike operations. Like many other disagreeable things, however, they bring out the best in people. The patient himself has to exert self-control and be cheerful no matter how he may feel, and this puts an obligation on his friends and relatives to do the same. It is always a marvel to me how people behave under circumstances where they probably would be excused if they didn't.
Jimmy's operation seemed to take a long time yesterday. When the young doctor who operated finally came in to report to my husband, he looked as though he had been through quite an ordeal. I asked him whether the physical or the mental strain was the greater and he answered like any young athlete: "The physical strain is nothing, it is the responsibility one feels."
His was exactly the same attitude you sense in boys playing on a football team or rowing on a crew. They are trained to stand physical stress, but the responsibility each one carries weighs very heavily. It must be rather appalling for a doctor to know that a human being has given up his own will, accepted the doctor's judgement, his experience, and his decision. There must be moments when one longs to refuse so much responsibility.
I have discovered that there are a few advantages to being the President. Never before when I have sat and waited for operations to be over, has anybody come and reported to me what was going on or what was the patient's condition. This time, every now and then, someone came to tell the President how far the work had progressed in that marvellous white operating room upstairs, and I decided that this was, on the whole, one real advantage for which a President could be grateful.
An operation makes me feel about a thousand years old, for I have seen so many changes both in preparation and after-care. However, the patient after any operation is always just about the same. I think doctors are now able to do things more humanely and with a minimum of pain.
This morning, as I walked over from the place where I had parked the car, a couple stopped me and said: "We are so glad to hear your son is doing well. Our boy, who is 20, is going through the clinic. He is finishing up this morning and then we will hear our verdict."
Poor things! It is better to have things behind you than to go through a period of uncertainty.
The day is bright and clear, the President has seen Jimmy and had an opportunity to take a drive and see something of the beautiful countryside.