Unlike some of my ElderChick female friends who would have become doctors if they’d been born just a couple of generations later, I prefer ignorance when it comes to medical details.  My month of June was spent in the hospital one week for spinal surgery followed by three at rehab.  When the first person explaining the surgery got to the part about the drill and the chisel, I quickly feigned sleep.  So now that I’m home just in time for the Fourth of July, still with a way to go via cane and walker, I have time to reflect on an overall inspiring experience.

My gratitude, of course, to the excellent surgeon, even as I shrink from full knowledge of what he did.  But the revelation, as usual, is that nursing earns its pride as a profession that attracts people who reflect the best qualities humans can aspire to:  empathy, caring, kindness, and intelligence.  Nurses are the ones who get you through the tough times that follow surgery – and they do it with patience, skill, and good humor.

Newer to me were the extraordinary skills of the physical therapists (PTs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs). It’s only as I actually climb the steps at home and get into my own shower that I realize how far they have taken me in three weeks. With more PT and OT help scheduled at home, I can glimpse getting back to my own “normal.” Good Shepherd Penn Partners Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia has my deep thanks and admiration.

Can you share with us some of the experiences that have made you appreciate health care professionals, the indispensables among us?  Tell us here.

I have been blessed (with one exception) with top quality healthcare professionals my whole life. But there is one person who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Our family doctor, a board certified internist at PA Hospital in Philadelphia.

When my husband died five years ago I was desperately bereft. After the dust of the funeral had settled I made an appointment with Dr. Bob. He had cared for my husband long before I was in the picture so he had experienced his own loss with Pat’s death.

During that first visit we both cried. Then he prescribed an unusual regimen for me: he referred me to a psychiatrist who specialized in loss. Then he said he wanted me to come in every month to see him for a check-up. His concern was that grief can have a negative physiological effect. He wanted to check to see how I was surviving. So for the first year of widowhood I saw him regularly. On month thirteen he pronounced me in good hands with my counselor and said he wanted to see me on my usual pre-grief schedule.

My counseling continued with ever-decreasing frequency for three years. Finally, I “graduated” to using the coping skills I had learned on my own. But I will always be grateful to Dr. Bob for his remarkable support and care. I was finally on the road to being healthy. And I never felt alone.

Both of these extraordinary doctors are now enjoying active retirement. And I am so grateful they retired after I was no longer in distress.

Wonderful experience, and thanks for sharing, Thelma. Unlike your minimal need to ‘appreciate’ the wonderfulness of skilled physicians and skilled physical therapists, I’ve had need for a full measure of ‘appreciation’ over many years.

Yes, Good Shepherd in Philadelphia gives top notch physical therapy, that gains the hoped-for results, when you actually practice what they demo for you when there. My most unusual experience there was seeing a speech therapist, of all things, to learn how to swallow pills better, without choking and gagging. What I learned from a patient therapist who took such a good history was that I’d been doing it wrong all my life. She taught me to only swallow pills sitting down, and to bend my head forward when doing the actual swallowing. Duh. I always did it standing up, and throwing my head back: how wrong can you manage it!!! I still cannot swallow large pills, but she taught me to take them down with applesauce, which does the slidey trick nicely.

As for physicians, well, I always ask around to get the top specialist in whatever area of the body is involved, so I have nothing but glowing tales of treating me as a whole person, and helping me to gain maximum health benefits. Not by accident. I am extremely compliant with whatever regime or limitations I’m given. It takes two to Tango! My most serious medical condition is Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. One becomes a ‘long term survivor’ of this incurable lung disease after 10 years, but I am now 17 years, and going strong, with the same wonderful PH physician: Dr. Harold
Palevsky, at Penn Presbyterian. He gave me hope, always explained everything, was there for me when other minor illnesses like a simple cold laid me flat. He treats me as a whole person, not just a person with a disease in his specialty.

Over the years I have parted company with otherwise excellent physicians when the ‘fit’ no longer felt right. One has to trust your own instincts when it’s time to change. Sometimes it’s just a matter of style: watch and wait is not my style, so I aim for more pro-active physicians who are willing to explain all possible options for me. My husband was comfortable with ‘watch and wait’, but during his last illness involving a deteriorated heart valve, watching and waiting did not feel right to me, so I urged him strongly to get a top notch consult. The night before the surgery, he said: Carol, you were right. Even though he had bad luck and complications after successful surgery, that was the right
decision, and I had no regrets.

Getting older is not for sissies… How true. But, at the juicy age of 83 I recently purchased another condo that presented a more attractive living arrangement than my prior home of almost 17 years. Change may not be easy, but I’m glad that I knew when it was time to make a change, a big one at that.

Just finished Donna Leon’s FALLING IN LOVE. Each one of her novels seems better than the last!