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Monday, April 11, 2011

Illness Does Not Affect Individuals...

..but rather it also affects all those who love and care for the patient.  While it is true that I have only been a patient a handful of times in my life, I learned first hand the challenges of a patient dealing with a chronic illness.  While some diseases can dramatically shorten a persons life, all diseases will alter the trajectory of a life in big or small ways.  That's true of both the patient and their family.

I was 8 years old when my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  What started then as a strange numbing of half of her body and debilitating days of exhaustion eventually grew into more visible, permanent symptoms of the disease.  The days of watching my mother run or me playing basketball with her in the driveway, slowly ended with the diagnosis of that disease.  Throughout the course of more than 30 years her symptoms have progressed from a slight limp that slowed her down to her daily confinement in a wheelchair.  She remembers much of her life in milestones marked by the loss of abilities or the complications of the disease- the day she could no longer drive; when she could no longer feed herself; the time she fell from her wheelchair and broke both of her legs.

As a patient, she has been poked and prodded, admitted and observed.  Throughout her journey she's received competent care and beautifully delivered compassion.  At times along the way, however, she has also been mismanaged, misdiagnosed and forgotten.  She's been prescribed medicines which worked well to provide a better quality to her life and occasionally has taken medicines in which the benefits did not outweigh the side effects.  In solemn conversations held in sterile examination rooms she's been given probabilities of life expectancy, predictions regarding her limited and shrinking abilities and in some rare instances, hope.

Having seen her live it, I sometimes wonder what I would be like as a patient with a chronic disease.  Would I have the stamina and courage my mother has displayed through the years?  Would I have the same deep-seated faith and hope that she lives by?  I can only hope that I would.  After all, I've learned much from her over the years and she remains the greatest example of how I should face challenges in my life.

As a longtime representative for a pharmaceutical company, I often try to envision the perspective of the patient.  I attempt to look through their lens, modeling my behavior to be honorable to him or to her.  I think that by providing the correct and balanced information to the patient's healthcare provider I can make a dramatic and positive difference in the life of their patient.  And not only the patient's life, but the lives of those who love and care for them.  That's the best kind of job.  They may never know the role that I play, but that's alright.  I know, and that keeps me going.  And the life and hope of my own mother keeps me focused on the most important element of healthcare, the patient.

1 comment:

James said...

I recall the film THE DOCTOR, with William Hurt, about a doctor who, in becoming he patient, finds that the other side is far more challenging that he ever imagined.