I have been sick this past week. I was admitted to the hospital, pricked with countless needles for my diagnostic tests, and given medications to diminish my symptoms. Some people say, “Ay doktor, nagkakasakit ka din pala”, perhaps because they always see me sunny and vibrant. Coming face to face with my own mortality this past week, I know that I’m prone to illness just like anyone else.
What can we learn from illness? And how does it change the way we see the world around us? For me, recovering is akin to being given a new perspective on life. I had never been previously confined in a hospital – until this past week. I was on the other side of the fence – an aching patient awaiting laboratory results and praying for relief of my symptoms. Now I was the one being visited by doctors and friends. It made me realize that life really does come around – nothing is permanent in this world except for death and taxes.
Armed with this newfound knowledge gained from experience, I can think of countless lessons. First is that no matter how healthy you are today, you must always be prepared for the eventuality of an illness coming your way. You can never tell how a single symptom can change your life, but you can be sure that it will have its effects. Secondly, after the pain comes the gain – in perspective, in outlook, and in confidence. You’ve survived a crisis, and because it hasn’t destroyed you, it has certainly made you a better person. Third, you get to know how the people who love you most try to move heaven and earth to find a solution. Their world stands still when you get sick, and you must appreciate the fact that there are people willing to make sacrifices in order to make your burden lighter. My wife sacrificed a lot to be on my side, and through all the haggling and arguments, she was still there until the end. Last, and most importantly, prayers can do wonders. When all else seems to fail and everything seems to be out of control, just let God weave His magic in His own time.
Doctors really are the most stubborn patients. I can attest to that. We abhor diagnostic tests. We hate taking drugs. Yet we do it to others all the time. Funny, but I realized that for most physicians, we never practice what we preach. Perhaps it is time for doctors to dig deep into themselves and rationalize the things that they do – day in and day out. It is so easy to write things on a piece of paper and give countless medical advice. But it may not be easy for patients to follow them to the letter. It becomes so much harder when a patient is ill and has no means to fully understand causes and effects. Then doctors become combative when a patient turns argumentative. I have now realized that I must make a conscious effort to extend my patience when dealing with a sick person.
Now I’m ready to move on and to move forward. Now my patients will face a physician with more empathy, because he knows how it is now to be in a sick person’s shoes. And now I definitely have to take care of myself so that I can provide the gift of healing to other people – and hopefully uplift the image of the medical profession as the domain of the caring and the compassionate.
- Please Don’t Die on Me (raymondolivercruz.wordpress.com)
- Learning How to Die: The Handbook for Mortals (psychcentral.com)