In Sickness and in Health

Category: Weekly Columns

Dealing with each other, in sickness and in health… My wife had a medical emergency early one recent morning.  The details are unimportant, but the care and response that we received were very important.  At five a.m., she called her doctor and got him on the phone.  He said we should call 911, which we did.  Within a few minutes both a paramedic vehicle and a fire truck arrived at our door. Moments later, she was getting attended to by three men in uniforms while I sat nearby feeling useless.

It was quickly determined by their efforts and in conference with the doctor that she was well enough for me to drive her to the hospital.  So, less than 30 minutes after this began we were on the road.  As it was so early, the drive was traffic-free and we entered the Emergency Room as the sun was rising.  Thankfully, it was a quiet morning there so we were quickly ushered into “Triage” and then given a bed.  In no time, a nurse had begun an IV and shortly afterward, the doctor on call did an exam.  He had already spoken with my wife’s primary doctor.

A couple of hours later, she was in a regular bed in the hospital.  And, shortly thereafter, she was wheeled to the pre-op area and had a minor surgery at mid-afternoon, of this same day.  In post-op, she was quite out of it, thanks to the anesthesia kicking in.  Our discussion centered on her desire to extort jewelry out of me since she felt entitled due to this event.  The nurses were being thoroughly unhelpful as they discussed the size of the diamond she should receive as compensation.  I was able to dodge this, thanks to the anesthesia, as she later forgot all about that misguided idea.  About 14 hours after the whole episode began, we were back home, and she was in her own bed, and eating some hastily made pasta made by my our emerging super-chef, my younger son.

Somehow, I have a hard time believing this would’ve happened as quickly, as perfectly, as attentively, and with as much kindness and care if we end up with national health-care, managed by the government.  To be fair, let’s consider opposing viewpoints.

My wife’s parents live in Canada and her mother recently had surgery for a brain tumor.  When this was discovered, a MRI was ordered.  So they waited.  And waited.  Over two months later, they finally got the MRI only due to the fact that her surgeon intervened, as he wanted to do her surgery prior to his month-long August vacation.  Thankfully, the surgery and post-op have been wonderfully successful and her parents were not only grateful, but especially proud of the fact that it cost them in the hundreds of dollars vs. the hundreds of thousands of dollars it might have cost elsewhere.

Further, my wife’s family has an uncle who claims that he would have been broke and/or dead without the benefit of Canada’s health-care system, since he’s been the unlucky victim of numerous serious illnesses and surgeries.

My own parents, who died at ages 89 and 90, had about a dozen major surgeries between them.  Ironically, most were at the same hospital where my wife had her recent surgery.  My dad was a self-insured blue-collar worker, while my mom managed the family finances and was the quintessential fifties housewife.  I can’t imagine how they would have financially survived their various health traumas without the benefit of Medicare. 

I don’t know which system is best and I don’t want to advocate any system.  I just want to thank God for the care my wife just received.  I realize, yet again, that the only wealth is our health.  I look at my boys in times like these and reflect how lucky I am to have a teen with “attitude,” unlike a good friend of mine whose son has Cystic Fibrosis.  Or my pre-teen who likes to question everything I ask of him, when another good friend of mine has two pre-teens with such problematic learning disabilities that he wonders how or if they’ll ever be able to take care of themselves.

I am reminded that “sweating the little things” is really foolish, that appreciating all we so often take for granted is the key to happiness, and that my wife’s pies are truly a gift from heaven to cite just one of the many little miracles she provides our family.  I also am grateful that my boys were caring enough that they both called to check on their step-mom rather than think of whatever inconveniences this episode might cause them. 

And, finally, I’m grateful to the doctors, paramedics and firemen, and other medical staff members who dropped whatever they were doing, on a moment’s notice, and took special care of my wife.  When we made our vows, little did we know that we’d be tested on the “in sickness and in health” area as quickly and as often as we have been.  I believe that it’s the stressful times that test a relationship the most.  I hope that I passed the test this time and we continue on, in sickness and in health.