Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A colleague writes with a thought-provoking story:

As is often the case, learning the meaning of something can happen well after the actual events that precipitate our own maturation.  So it was for me when my mother developed a growth on her esophagus just before her stomach, in the fall of 2009.

My mother was scared and my father was trying not to appear scared.  Together, they were preparing themselves to be lead by the healthcare system in the discovery of exactly what my mother was afflicted with and how it would be treated.  Having started my life in healthcare 29 years ago, working then as an X-ray Technologist, it took no time for me to launch into an effort to assist my mother and father in navigating through this event.  The reflexive urge I felt to help is well known by all those who work in healthcare.  As healthcare professionals of all disciplines, we know, that despite the best intentions and the best training in the world, there is no predicting how a health episode will go.  Nor is there an outcome that can be reliably delivered.  

After some phone calls by me, my mother was seen, biopsied and got her results well ahead of the typical time frame for these millstones of care.  She also had the benign growth removed well ahead of what would have been normally scheduled.

When I recount my efforts to help my family, with my friends and acquaintances, who also work in healthcare, every person affirms they would do the same for their spouse, children, family members and friends.  Normally, this affirmation is heartily expressed like those who are part of an exclusive club.  It was not until earlier this year that I was struck with a profound sense of guilt as I reflected on my actions.  I most certainly delayed the care that would have otherwise been given to someone with a malignant growth.  Someone who my mother and father, knowing her growth was benign, would have gladly had go ahead of them.  I have no way of knowing whom I may have hurt or if my actions had no consequence at all.


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