Most words of advice about health focus on the positive: exercise, healthy diets, taking stress out of your life, and so on. Bookstores, if you can find one, are perpetually overstocked with books on preventing every known ailment to man.
By Peter Jovanovich
“Whoah God only knows, God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable to the mortal man
We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away.”
— Paul Simon
Most words of advice about health focus on the positive: exercise, healthy diets, taking stress out of your life, and so on. Bookstores, if you can find one, are perpetually overstocked with books on preventing every known ailment to man. But then, like a thief in the night, something comes along — heart disease, stroke, cancer, COPD — that no self-help book is ever going to cure.
I’m somewhat of a professional patient. Double-lung transplant, near fatal heart attack, loss of eyesight for over a year, are just some of the things I’ve endured. Hospitals are so familiar to me that I feel at home when I’m wheeled into an operating room. So, as opposed to all those words written to keep you out of the hospital, I would like to pass on (no pun intended) some how-to tips once you’re in the hospital.
Double-lung transplant patients are always struggling with something. I recently informed my doctor that I had the opportunity to buy whole life insurance through my company. Before I finished the sentence, he interjected: “BUY IT!”
So, what do survivors of major illnesses and disease do? First, get your affairs in order. In my case that’s easy: “She gets everything.”
What’s not so easy or obvious is living. Should you go places you’ve never been before? The Poles (not Warsaw, but North or South), the Himalayas, five nights in Macau or Vegas, Machu Pichu, Patagonia, or any other place your wealthier and healthier neighbors have traveled to recently.
Or, you could do things you’ve been too afraid or too sensible to do before: Skydiving, zip-lining, mud baths with attractive strangers of the opposite sex, ashrams, swimming with sharks or dolphins (take your pick).
The truth is none of us, or few of us, has the chance to get away. We must work for a living, sick as we are, and being sick is a job in and of itself. Going to the hospital for endless rounds of tests, dealing with new meds and new doctors, calling your doctor to explain the effects, both wanted and unwanted, dealing with insurers and Medicare and the pharmacies (there’s always a problem with meds), all take time and energy. Something you do not have an endless supply of.
But, why leave home to seek adventure, when the adventure is all around you? That’s been my experience. Maybe this treatment will work, maybe it won’t. Miracles do happen – or maybe you have the wrong doctors. There’s a lot to be done, and decisions you must make. If you are really sick, remember, this is your show.
Over the next months, I will attempt to chronicle the life of a patient. It’s often funny, rarely lachrymose, and mostly about the love and kindness of others. The cast of characters includes doctors and nurses, family and friends, and – you guessed it – your new best friend, the Federal government.