November 2, 2009 by David Gillaspie
WHERE IT SHOWS, WHERE IT DOESN’T
Football on television always shows the sidelines of the winners and the losers. Look closely and you see players on crutches wearing their game jerseys. Those are the guys who took a hit, turned the wrong way, or fell too hard. They’re injured. You see them and know they get the best care for the quickest return to the field.
It’s not the same for the guy limping down the sidewalk, or the woman with the thick shoe at the bus stop. They don’t have a highly motivated care team keeping them healthy; they’re going somewhere, but they’re not getting back in the game. They see the disparity between the NFL healthcare and theirs. Should they give up?
An older woman pulls her shoulders loose lifting her ill husband and gets surgery. Then she has both wrists worked on. Instead of freeing up her range of motion she learns scar tissue in her shoulders won’t let her raise her arms. Her doctor says she’ll have to live with it. Regular living is painful; exercise makes it more painful. Live with that?
Is that care? That’s what they call it.
When a woman has tumors in her head too close to important nerves to operate, she looks for options. She travels for Gamma Knife treatment. They say they’ve done all they can. She contracts a nerve disorder on one side of her face so her headaches now come with the sensation that her face is on fire. The doctors have done all they can.
Is this the limit of care?
These are two real people, my mother in law and my mom, with the best insurance; retired public employee insurance. They don’t get turned down for anything when they go to the hospital. They are motivated to get better, or at least no worse. But what can they do? They haven’t been denied treatment. There is no treatment to give them.
Does it sound like the medical community has given up on them? There’s money on the table, why would they?
A harsh reality comes when modern medicine runs out of answers. You get sent home. What happens then is up to you. It is useful to know you have choices.
If you don’t know what the options are, they look like this:
1. Move, or don’t move. If you can’t move, then get to a swimming pool and float. You are your best motivator. Be your own trainer; be a mover.
2. Eat more, or eat less. If you can’t move well, then eat less. Why add more to what already isn’t moving well? In Fat America it is a huge battle just to stay on the low side of obese. You know it’s true. Ask friends and neighbors about their last school reunion. It’s not pretty and it starts early.
3. Find people who give you possibilities, or impossibilities. Look into the eyes of someone in chronic pain and you feel it. They lock you in. The doctors say there’s nothing they can do? It’s hopeless. That doesn’t mean you have to believe it when you look into those eyes. Give them that much. They can tell.
4. Ask who loves you, or ask who you love. Chronic pain drops you on an island no can reach. Your doctor gives up, so why not give up too? One reason is the healing power of love still makes a difference. Reach out to those who understand how difficult it is to reach anything. When you’re in the clutches, you can still feel sorry for yourself, just make some time to show others you’re thinking of them. Show a little love just because you still can.
5. Work with your caregiver, your husband, your wife, or die. In a perfect world you have a family caregiver with the skills to address every issue. It’s a tall order. All families have their own momentum, some getting stronger, some falling apart. Flex your family muscle; make your family stronger. Call for a simple hello. If a family member asks why you’re calling, tell them you’re on a new medication and being nice to a family jerk is a side-effect.
You don’t really die if you ignore family members, but something dies inside if you can’t find that balance. It doesn’t have to be fifty-fifty, or eighty-twenty. It could be ninety nine-one. What it can’t be is 100-0, because no one wants to be the zero.
Options make life exciting. If you feel like you’re out of choices, you are wrong. Choose to breath. Choose to be thankful. Choose to make the lives around you better for being there. Do that and feel the difference between 100-0 and 97-3. It feels good to be in the game.