This past Thursday, a man was dying in the hospital from respiratory distress with CO2 84 for my medical folks (basically he couldn’t breathe well). A woman was there by his side and told us “I’m his sister, I’m all he has.” She told us his wishes, that he did not want to be intubated (didn’t want a tube down his throat to help him breathe). He had a spinal cord injury and she had been by his side as his caretaker through his whole course.
I’ve spent more time in the hospital these past 3 weeks than ever. And outside all of the medicine I’m learning, I’ve picked up on other valuable things. No one ever expects to be hospitalized. Even people who don’t treat their bodies with respect don’t plan on it. [Of course you have your frequent flyers who seem to actually enjoy being in the ER, but I’m not talking about those people.] So when you end up in the hospital, it’s usually pretty scary and you yearn for the support of those who know and love you.
I’ve heard many reasons for families breaking apart. Divorce is a big part of it. Or siblings that never really got along and never saw/spoke to each other again after parents pass away. Sometimes children move very far away from their parents for their careers, and after starting their own families, they lose touch and aren’t there for them when they’re sick. A lot of manipulation from step-mothers and fathers convincing their children that their parents are no-good. Arrogance from advanced careers. There are so many things that I’ve seen break families apart, leaving people alone in the hospital to suffer their conditions, and relying on social work to get them the transportation/home support they need. It really takes a toll on their outcomes. On the other hand, I also talk to older patients who actually move closer to their children whether in retirement or due to looming illness.
My patients that have the support of their spouses or children do so much better! They understand more about their conditions because their loved ones are able to convey information to them. And they are able to communicate the patient’s needs to us. They have a shorter length-of-stay because they go home with their loved one, or that person plays an active role in getting the patient to the appropriate facility. Thus reducing the complications that come from being in the hospital. And they just have better personalities all around. My patients that don’t have people visiting are super grumpy.
Seeing and learning all of this really makes me think about my future, and the importance of being near my family–or having an available means to get to them in any case of emergency. When I was younger (talking as if I’m 50 lol), all I wanted was to be away from my parents and be an “adult.” Now that I’m here, and time keeps passing, my mindset is shifting. If you’re blessed enough to still have grandparents, or your parents are starting to get older, it’s something to think about. And if you have rifts with your siblings, try to mend them. Because in my opinion, family is the most important relationship there is. Yeah you love your friends, your bf/gf, your dog…but your family is your blood. God chose them for you, and chose you for them.
Reflect on it…
Have a blessed week 🙂