The patient patient


Do you wonder why we use that word to identify people who seek and receive medical care? Patients and their loved ones need patience. Last week my dear bride needed a lot of it. So did I. She’s 84, living and receiving care in an assisted living home. A lifetime of polio has taken away her ability to walk or even stand independently. Dementia drains her memory and sometimes takes her on journeys to other realities.

Too often, she falls, mostly when trying to transfer from her bed to her wheelchair.

Two weeks ago, when she complained of chest pains, she was hurried to an emergency room. Tests showed that she didn’t have a heart attack, and her blood work looked normal. Two days later, more chest pains, same results. This time, her ER doctor ordered further tests, an echocardiogram and stress tests. With her mobility limitation, the stress tests would involve injections of radioactive material and observe its journey through the patient’s veins.

Early last week, she tumbled forward out of her wheelchair as she reached for something on the floor. Bracing herself as she fell, she injured her left hand, fracturing a tiny bone in her pinky.

Next day — Tuesday — she had the hand X-rayed at a clinic near our home. This appointment involved several hours of waiting. Most medical appointments do.

On Wednesday, Our daughter and I met her at the large teaching hospital, where she spent several hours receiving an echocardiogram followed by four sessions of stress tests separated by hour-long rest periods. We arrived at the hospital before 8 am and left after 3.

Hard-working staff members at her assisted-living home drive her to and from these medical appointments in specially equipped vans, but such transportation was unavailable on Thursday, so we waited until Friday, when she reported to a different clinic, a walk in-and-wait-your turn facility, where, after a couple of hours’ wait, she was fitted with a large bandage and splint.

This coming Monday, she’s scheduled to report to yet another care center to have the splint replaced with a cast.

If you want to hear God laugh, the saying goes, tell her your plans.

As we and our loved ones grow older, providing compassionate care for them and ourselves dominates our daily lives. It can be stressful, and it requires patience. Lots of it.

But let me be clear: This experience has become a joyful journey for me, reminding me that when we love someone deeply, we find our greatest joy in helping them. It’s a way to express our love. Patiently.

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