The medical profession does not believe there is a cure for cancer. The alternative medical community believes — and even knows — there is. And maybe it has something to do with a different kind of caring, and a lot of love. There is “magic” in the simple things of life, and that includes when practicing medicine.
We know that doctors don’t — and can’t — give any guarantees, and sometimes they even give you the bad news before it is warranted: “We’re so sorry… there’s nothing that we can do…” Perhaps it is somewhere around hearing that news that some people gravitate over to the other side, looking for something that most “regular” doctors don’t know, and if they did, would not be allowed to tell you anyway. Of course some doctors will keep treating you long past the point of any treatment being able to do you any good; but on and on they go — calling for another MRI, another PET scan, another CAT scan, or another ultrasound. And two hours after taking blood, they realize they forgot to order a panel for this or that reason and have to take more blood. Of course they need it, but couldn’t they have been better coordinated? It’s nothing to them, but to a frail little woman who has been sitting around for hours waiting to know what comes next, and who hasn’t had a thing to eat all day and is falling asleep in her wheelchair, requesting more blood — after she just gave — is a big thing.
Yet that’s the way it goes. My mother always used to tell us that she never needed a doctor all her life except for when she was giving birth to us — her three daughters. Yet one day she fell down our cellar stairs and needed to go to the Emergency Room. After that, she was in the system and they “had her.” Of course in her case, it was a good thing since otherwise she never would have known about the grapefruit-sized tumor on her lung. She had the cancer removed and was back to normal, living another 20 years! Sometimes “regular” medical treatment works!
But she was oh so concerned about “the system.” She did not want to get caught up in being used for a “game piece” — given one test after another; being put on one medication after another, and so on. And although she lived another 20 years, she was definitely caught up in the system in her final days and months… dying, I believe before her time because of the very system in which she was “caught up.”
Today I was at the hospital with my sister from her noontime appointment with her doctor till after her admittance to the hospital long around 8 p.m., when they could finally get her a bed.
But today her doctor practically fell asleep in our faces. (Literally.) He yawned many times, was pulling at his hair as though he had issues, and didn’t have any answers when we asked him questions. He said he needed another test and that we should just go “there” and it would all be taken care of. Nothing he told us that would be all taken care of ever was; we still needed to go here or there or do some other thing before we could get the thing done that he said would all be taken care of for her. Why do doctors feel the need to give us that standard line which is a lie? They only make us learn not to trust them.
I have a little more to compare today’s hospitals, doctors and nurses to than perhaps many other people do. I used to be a nurse and work in a hospital. Although we nurses didn’t have to take the Hippocratic Oath, most of us agreed with it: First, do no harm. And somewhere in the oath was something about not giving poisonous substances. Today’s doctors prescribe, and the nurses administer, poisonous substance after poisonous substance, but they’re simply referred to as your prescriptions.
But I needn’t explain a typical day at a doctor’s office or hospital to anyone. We all get it. But because the patient was my sister, I was observing all the many little ways that the hospital staff did not practice “First, do no harm.” It may not seem like “harm” to a hearty, healthy nurse or aide to ignore a patient, but it makes the patient feel not only invisible, but totally unimportant when they all walk by and ignore her frail, questioning face. It may not seem like harm when they pile on page after page after page of the exact same paperwork to fill out again that she just filled out downstairs and upstairs, and now — “…here, do it again.” And it’s just thrust upon her without even a little “I’m so sorry, but we have no choice — we have to do this again” …or the like. And when a nurse needs a patient to be up higher in bed, or to give her arm for that next vial of “donated” blood, whatever happened to gentleness, or asking if she needs help to move before just yanking on an arm here, or pushing a fragile hip there?
Imagine waiting for an unknown period of time — in pain, tired and hungry — and not even learning why you are waiting or how much longer it will be. I asked the nurse what we were waiting for, and she told me the results from the blood test. I told her that it would be a good idea to tell “waiters” what it is they are waiting for, which might make the waiting a little easier to bear. She never did. She never once explained the next thing to come or the reason for it, and that happened over and over again. She verbally combatted my request to at least give my sister the pain pills she was supposed to have, and which we never dreamed we would need to take with us, expecting to talk, take the test, and be home in two, maybe three hours tops. She ended up getting what I’ll call the “house brand” for her pain, maybe because looking up in her records to find her actual prescription from the doctor who works at that hospital might have been just a bit too much for the nurse. But so be it.
Things were done to my sister with little forewarning or preparation. People kept pouring into her room, just taking her arm, or wheeling over another piece of machinery, or sticking a thermometer in her mouth. Nothing horrible as you can see, but nothing like the so-called “old days.” Where did the love go? Where have all the sunny smiles gone? Where have all the thoughtful explanations gone? Whatever happened to tuning in to the patient to see if he or she is hungry or tired or cold? We used to offer “oven”-warmed cozy blankets to help the patient feel better. We would often check in and ask, “How are you feeling? Are you okay?” “Is there anything you need or want to be more comfortable?”
Granted, modern medicine can save many lives, but a patient will never forget how their hospital experience made them feel! Long after the prescribed drugs have worn off and the thing they came in for is fixed or dealt with in some kind of way, a patient will remember how she felt.
We all know most hospitals today may be overcrowded and understaffed, and the doctors and nurses are very likely overworked — meaning less time with each patient. But be that as it may, I still prefer my old-fashioned style of nursing that had a lot more kind and happy interaction with the patient, even while still having sufficient interaction with the much less modern machines and techniques we were using back in those days.
So, while I was practicing nursing under my nurse’s license, I was first and foremost practicing something without a license — love!
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.