Thursday, April 26, 2007

Never Leave Home

Once again I am on the road when Mary could use my company. I was sitting at a counter in the Tokyo Narita airport, eating a traditional Japanese meal and drinking a Guinness when I read Mary K's post below. Her post hit me pretty hard. I should be there now, but I won't be for another 10 hours.

I know from experience that Mary takes these tragedies personally. She will rerun that terrible day over and over again in her head, searching for any clue she believes she should have caught, believing she can somehow alter reality or stop the inevitable. She knows deep down there was nothing she could have done, even if she were Super Nurse. If, somehow, she had brilliantly deduced that her patient was going to experience a stroke in advance, something numerous other doctors and nursed didn't do either, that still would not have been enough. She couldn't stop it. She knows this. But she will still continue to search for that elusive clue she believes she missed, so that she will know the next time.

You want a nurse like this taking care of you.

She's unfortunately been through losses like this before, as has any health care provider. It's the nature of the healthcare business, trying to prevent the unpreventable. I will never understand how they do it, these doctors and nurses. Working so hard to learn everything there is to know about the human body in a futile effort to control it and prevent it from doing what it is destined to do.

We, you and I, those of us not in the health care profession, owe them a deep debt of gratitude. They work so hard, with so little recognition, and rarely get the thanks they deserve. They do it because they care.

No one remembers the doctors and nurses that cured them of disease or eased their pain or delivered them at birth or removed their wisdom teeth or game them flu shots or set that bone or removed that appendix or did countless other things to make their passage through life more comfortable. We only think of them when we believe they screwed something up. Well, guess what, life is not guaranteed, and even God never promised you a life without pain. How we ever came to believe that doctors and nurses were somehow at fault when they failed to insulate us from being human I will never know. But I thank God they try.

Both my sister and my wife are nurses and I have tremendous respect for them. I like to think there is nothing I can't do, but they do something far beyond what I could ever do. They endure the inevitable health care crises that occur every day just so they can be there when their presence does makes a difference. I once read a story about a doctor who dedicated his life to helping the deaf hear. He combined technology with medicine and developed a device that, in certain individuals, would help them hear when they couldn't before. I remember it because he tells the story of a young woman who had been deaf since birth that he once had the opportunity to work with. He was standing in her room, post-surgery, when she heard her mother's voice for the first time. He said he had worked his entire life for that one moment, and it was worth every bit of it. Can you imagine?

Here's to my wife and sister. Thank you.