The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways in which medical care is accessed and delivered in many ways. Hospitals, clinics and other care facilities are sometimes overwhelmed. There is a growing shortage of physicians, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, technicians and pharmacists. The cost of a medical education is enormous and many newly minted physicians are mired in debt. They are also poorly compensated initially in their careers, given the hours, stress, skills required and the time devoted to medical training. They are essential to our safety and health and they save lives. They are true heroes and deserve our utmost respect and thanks for putting their own health at risk and sometimes that of their family’s to care for the sick.
Care providers are required to discuss risks involved in detail and the patient may agree or disagree to accept the risks and proceed with the treatment. The vast majority do, whether because there’s no reasonable alternative or they are under the impression that they must obey “doctor’s orders.” But not every case is the same and there may be an emotional or mental aspect on the patient’s part that may warrant a modified or altogether different approach if possible. Providers should listen and take it into consideration.
Not only does the patient have a vote in the matter, it is the deciding vote. He or she, after all, should have control over their own bodies. Of course, the provider may decline to perform the procedure. A young attending physician, for example, may think it prudent to extend a hospital stay a few days as a precaution. A few days is like a brief interval in a young life but to a, say, nonagenarian, it is an eternity. As those readers who know me may know, I am 91, going on 92 and my wife of 67 years is close behind. If you think we don’t look our age, well, thanks but we are old and proud of it. Behind the neat façade, our bodies are wearing out.
Life has been good to me and I am grateful. It’s been a great ride, but God didn’t set the world spinning on its axis to give me a ride. I have a variety of ailments too numerous to detail here, the latest being a large stone near where my gall bladder used to be which was affecting the liver. It was expertly removed by a highly skilled and prominent gastroenterologist and surgeon in a procedure he first described as very difficult and risky. He and the highly-experienced anesthesiologist are now my heroes and I am grateful that such talent exists. I was allowed to return home after a day of observation at my insistence in spite of increased risk of stroke or bleeding because I understood the risks which were painstakingly explained and agreed to by me. Here’s why. Neighbors and friends graciously offered to stay with my wife who has Parkinson’s. My daughters, as usual stepped up, stayed with me throughout the three-day crisis, cooked and prepared meals and kept up moral. My granddaughter, a student at Arizona State University, drove in to be with us only to be denied entry to the hospital in accordance with state restriction because she did not have a vaccination card which is not required in Arizona. She had no symptoms. Do you suppose we will soon need a vaccination card to vote in the coming election, or even to leave home? She had to get back by Sunday night and I was determined that she did not make the trip to be with her grandfather in vain. As I mentioned before, I am old and there’s a chance I may not live to see her again. I’m not planning to die, that’s God’s call, but I am throwing away the dozens of 2023 calendars with adorable puppy dogs and kitty cats which clutter our mailbox. A day is precious to my wife and me. And I was determined to spend at least one of them with our granddaughter. I also cannot sleep in hospitals probably because they keep waking you up so sleep deprivation was not helping my recovery. I said that I had to be discharged by noon Sunday so she would not have to drive over the mountains in the dark. The risks were acceptable to me. Each day is a gift to my wife and me and we will live them together, not separately in hospitals if at all possible. She had the heavy burden of managing the home and raising the children during a dozen or so deployments during a 30+ year career while I was far away. It’s her time now to have me by her side and there you will find me until they take one of us away. As you can probably tell from this, I don’t worry much about the much-overstressed medical privacy every provider of anything says they take so seriously. In closing, I can’t say enough about the care, courtesy, respect and professionalism of the fine staff and volunteers at our local gem of a hospital. It’s an essential part of what makes ours the best hometown in America by far.
Tell them you appreciate them and then show them that you really do.
VOL. 112, NO. 38 - Sept. 21, 2022