Monthly Letters to Pulmonary Patients by Thomas L. Petty

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)


National Lung Health Education Program
A collaborative project with



HealthOne Center
1850 High Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303 839 6755
Fax: 303 832 8137

Do We Need Reprogramming?

May 1999
Second Wind
Lomita, California

Dear Friends:

I had just checked into the hotel of the University of Indiana in Indianapolis for the purpose of being visiting professor the next day. After unpacking I was seated comfortably on the easy chair with a convenient foot rest. I tried to turn on the T.V. using the remote control selector. The T.V. was stuck on an information channel and it would not advance. I immediately assumed that there were dead batteries in the selector, but manual controls on the set itself did not change the channel. I called the front desk and they sent a maintenance man to investigate the problem. It only took him an instant to open a control panel and push a button, which he said, would reprogram the television set to conform to the cable offerings that were amenities of the hotel. I watched the channel indicator go through a display of 99 consecutive channel numbers, 2 through 99. After it passed 99, it ended again on channel 2. Now try your selector, the maintenance man said. It worked perfectly and as I thanked him, he simply said, some things need to be reprogrammed.

This is such a simple story, or so it seems: an electrical method of reprogramming a television set that is not on track. It illustrates the utility of an internal safeguard system. Let me put this simple scenario into human perspective. When we get off track, who reprograms us? When in despair and out of sink with the joys of life which should be ours, how can we recover?

Sometimes it is a "wake up call" that reprograms us after a near disaster. At other times, it is a special event in life such as an anniversary, a unique occasion, or a birthday. In any case, our own self contained ability to reprogram our lives is a capability that we don't always utilize. Yet, we are endowed with this ability if we would only employ it.

We need to pause and reconsider how lucky we really are. It's not what we don't have, but what we do have that is important.

I will be in touch next month.

Your friend,

  Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
14 March 2002