Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I have no way of knowing whom I may have hurt

A colleague writes with a thought-provoking story:

As is often the case, learning the meaning of something can happen well after the actual events that precipitate our own maturation.  So it was for me when my mother developed a growth on her esophagus just before her stomach, in the fall of 2009.

My mother was scared and my father was trying not to appear scared.  Together, they were preparing themselves to be lead by the healthcare system in the discovery of exactly what my mother was afflicted with and how it would be treated.  Having started my life in healthcare 29 years ago, working then as an X-ray Technologist, it took no time for me to launch into an effort to assist my mother and father in navigating through this event.  The reflexive urge I felt to help is well known by all those who work in healthcare.  As healthcare professionals of all disciplines, we know, that despite the best intentions and the best training in the world, there is no predicting how a health episode will go.  Nor is there an outcome that can be reliably delivered.  

After some phone calls by me, my mother was seen, biopsied and got her results well ahead of the typical time frame for these millstones of care.  She also had the benign growth removed well ahead of what would have been normally scheduled.

When I recount my efforts to help my family, with my friends and acquaintances, who also work in healthcare, every person affirms they would do the same for their spouse, children, family members and friends.  Normally, this affirmation is heartily expressed like those who are part of an exclusive club.  It was not until earlier this year that I was struck with a profound sense of guilt as I reflected on my actions.  I most certainly delayed the care that would have otherwise been given to someone with a malignant growth.  Someone who my mother and father, knowing her growth was benign, would have gladly had go ahead of them.  I have no way of knowing whom I may have hurt or if my actions had no consequence at all.


Sarah ‏@BubblyHeart said...

From Twitter:

I think it's okay. Healthcare requires pushing, you just have more leverage. Glad she had a positive outcome.

Vicky Lindo Kemish said...

From Facebook:

Yes, but if your mother's results had not been benign, would the second thoughts have arisen? That's a good one to ponder.

Have no guilt. You did what almost anyone would do - including the families (if they could) of the "others" that you considered after the fact.

It's just part of being human.

Norma Sandrock said...

From Facebook:

You did not delay anyone's care. The day expands to accommodate everyone.

James said...

Your actions were simply representative of what many desire for everyone. As a case manager I look at every patient as though they are the only one in the hospital and should be receiving care at a rate equal to their body's ability to heal.

Thank goodness we have a healthcare system which drives innovation and desire for improvement. Without the passion to seek information and resolve conflict of the human body we would just be another industry turning out widgets.

Anonymous said...

I have a dream…, that one day the processes that support the care delivery effort will be standardized to the point that everyone gets the same, excellent attention that everyone in the system wants to provide to patients.

Charles Suss said...

From Facebook:

I commend you for recognizing your elevated position and deeply respect your humility to admit possible abuse.

Neville Sarkari MD, FACP said...

I doubt anyone's care was delayed, assuming this happened in the U.S. Our system has a lot of excess capacity, which is part of the reason it is more expensive.

We all lobby for our families and friends, so I don't think your friend should feel guilty.


Anonymous said...

As the top comment says, healthcare does require pushing - and when my father was hospitalized I tried, but I just didn't have the leverage (see