To my incredible family, friends and fans – thank you all so much for the prayers, good vibes and well-wishes. More specific updates will be forthcoming, I’m sure. But for now…
A Letter to the Medical Community
Dear Medical Community –
Now, more than ever, I appreciate what you all do. Doctors, your years of education and commitment to helping folks get well and be well – even in light of all the tragedy and trauma you’re faced with everyday – is commendable, to say the least. And all of you nurses and techs… wow. Dealing with all of those bodily fluids, catheters and needles everyday, and bathing folks who can’t bathe themselves… wow. Don’t know how you do it. I’m glad you all have chosen the paths you’ve chosen.
All of this said, I have three observations or suggestions I would like to share with you, inspired by my recent immersion into your world these past two-and-a-half weeks. (For those of you who already know these things, please consider educating those around you who don’t. There are many.)
Words are powerful things… suggestions to the mind that can either create limited parameters for recovery or provoke unlimited opportunity for healing. Please mind your words when hovering near the bed of a patient who is potentially faced with a long road back to wellness and normalcy. Sprinkling your sentences with key phrases like “may never,” “hope to regain some of,” “will not likely, “could possibly, but…” are completely unnecessary to say within earshot of any new patient, even if the patient appears to be sleeping or “can’t likely understand a word we’re saying.”
If we all know that the brain is complex beyond our comprehension, and that any form of brain injury (like that which occurs in a major stroke) is almost impossible to quantify with total precision – especially at the early stages of recovery – then why would you even take the chance of uttering such dismal, discouraging words in the presence of a patient?
And even if you could argue that the left-brain – the language center, home of words, sentences, comprehension and syntax – has taken a serious hit, what about the right-brain, which is completely functional and processing all the vibes, emotions, feelings and less tangibles in the room? That’s reason enough to mind your words.
So if you see me escorting yet another medical professional – be they a doctor, nurse, tech or therapist – out into the hallway for a “private conversation,” this is likely what we’re discussing. Our family will not allow any of this kind of talk in the presence of our beloved. And yes, you can be as brutally honest, transparent, pessimistic or bleak as you want to be to me with your predictions or projections. I can take it. My father shouldn’t have to.
While we appreciate your strict adherence to the dietary guidelines we have requested for our beloved, and we know you’re working within a very limited scope of accommodation, I am still mystified at what passes for hospital food these day for all other patients and visitors. Greasy chicken, sausage, pork-and-beans, French fries, ham-soaked greens and vanilla pudding… for folks who are there specifically for clogged or damaged arteries, cancer or diabetes? Seriously? C’mon, people! It’s 2012. The science is there. The studies are there. The data is there. The research is there. The unequivocal proof is there! Food matters. The number one determinant of your overall health is the health of your blood, and the most influential factor in the health of your blood is what you eat and drink. So again, food matters… especially during times of recovery and healing.
What’s this you say? That the patients might not like healthier, high-fiber, plant-based food? That they might complain? I’ve got news for you; they already don’t like the food, and they’re already complaining! So I would think – at least on your watch – you would want to ensure that the patients have every opportunity to heal, and every opportunity to allow their taste buds to adjust to food that is not riddled with salt, sugar and animal fat. This way, they at least leave your hospital with a fighting chance that they can actually make some dietary changes and, in fact, will have a clue as to what those changes might look like.
Work Ethic Matters
On a personal note, I guess I’m pretty old school where the concept of “work ethic” is concerned. I got this mainly from my dad, who I know got it from his dad (who was never once late for work as a welder in over 30 years of employment). For me, every performance – no matter what the circumstances – is like the last one I’ll ever have. And every day of hitting the drums, writing, preparation, or training, is like a religious practice. That’s just the way it is. You pay the piper and do your work, on any given day, whether you feel like it or not.
And yet, I understand how this concept might not translate to many jobs where folks are in survival mode, punching a clock to pay the bills. STILL – if you’re being paid an honest wage for services rendered, you kind of have to step up to the plate and do your best, be professional, and go the proverbial extra mile for employer and/or customer… or step aside and let someone else step in who will.
This is especially true when performing a job or service that deals with someone’s health, well-being, or even life. I understand that your job might mainly be a way for you to pay your bills and help support your family, but let me remind you of the sanctity of what you do everyday. No matter what your job is in this arena, I believe you can influence and affect, to some degree, what a patient’s recovery experience is like… some of you to a significant degree.
So please, do your job and do it well. Everyday. (And I know many of you already do this.) And if the chart says to give the patient his aspirin crushed in applesauce – and that requires that you take an extra 60 seconds to do it – please; crush that fucking pill.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of these ideas. And may decades pass before I ever have to deal with you all again.