Sunday, September 14, 2008


We actually got to see the hematologist last week. He's a very nice guy who usually sees cancer patients so when he opened the door to the exam room, took a look around and said "everyone looks pretty healthy in here, why are you here?" Keith told him about the anemia and the low red blood cell count. He looked closely at Keith and said "You don't look anemic to me, let's take a test and prove it." Stacy, heretofore known as the 'Blood Whisperer', entered the room and quickly drew the blood needed. (This in itself was a bit of a miracle, since Keith has a reputation as a 'hard stick'.) A few minutes later, the doctor came back in the room and declared that Keith was absolutely not anemic.

Not only is this a tangible measurement of how much better Keith is healing at home rather than in some institution, but also how the system can work once you identify the problem. In this case, the same day that I told the person in Keith's primary doctor's office my theory that we were just being paper shuffled around until the doctors could merge and deny service, we got the appointment. Coincidence? Probably. But it felt like I had somehow broken a spell by naming the wrong. (Okay, maybe I spent a bit too much time in Middle Earth as a kid, lol). Without a doubt, if we had not persisted, demanded and questioned we would not have had the appointment. How many people cannot do that for themselves? Too many.

As we've been on this healing journey, we have gotten a lot of agreement from folks about the broken system. This message is not just from patients, but from doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, institutional health providers, home healthcare workers and just about everybody who has crossed our path. While in some ways it's comforting to know that we are not alone in our experience, it's also overwhelming to realize that the brokenness of the system is so accepted by all. The weight these healthworkers carry trying to hold it together is now breaking them. Perhaps patients are being sent home with ever more complicated medical routines to give them a better chance at healing. Certainly Keith has experienced exponential improvement at home.

So, should the broken system just be accepted as 'the way it is'? No. Can one person make a difference? Absolutely. It could be one person listening to a healthcare worker discuss her passion for patient care so that she is reinvigorated for one more day. Or the person who finds and connects with the individuals in the institutions. Or building community around solutions. Most importantly as long as one person continues to hold the vision of a strong, vital healthcare system, then we all have the chance of experiencing that truth. I have often been branded an idealist and, as my friends will attest, one of those individuals who actually holds those kinds of visions. So, when you're feeling overwhelmed with the broken system, uncaring healthcare workers and other uninspired participants in the healthcare world, just know that I'm your designated idealist holding a vision of a system that works.

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