Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Life is precious

Nina Wesson

Vivian wrote an excellent follow up about the death of our friend Nina. I have been wondering all this time about how it could have happened. It seemed (and actually still seems) so senseless. And the thing is, for me, knowing more about her last days makes it scarier still.

Because Nina was not neglecting herself. She went to bed, went to the doctor, had her husband take her to the hospital. She knew she was sick and she was trying to get better. Tragically, no one, not the doctor'’s office, not the emergency room nurse, no one who could have helped, took her condition seriously until it was way too late. And I want to know (of course no one ever will) when was that moment that she crossed over the line? When the nurse practitioner sent her for a chest X-ray, could they have turned it around then? Did they even take a throat culture? Should they have done more testing that day? What about the emergency room nurse who didn'’t rush her straight in?

I'’m wondering how many people remember when Jim Henson died? I thought at the time how scary it was that he just didn'’t take his illness seriously until it was too late. Sound familiar? Maybe that'’s because Jim Henson also died from a Strep A infection. This is not just about moms who sacrifice for their kids until they have nothing left. This is about how serious illness can creep up on you without warning, and how the medical profession can let people down, with life or death consequences.

What about the little girl who died of meningitis a few years ago? When her parents took her to the doctor, he didn'’t take them seriously, even though they told him she had been exposed to meningitis recently. How can you protect yourself and your loved ones against people like that? How many of us are strong enough to know when we need more care, when our needs are not being met? How many of us have the information to ask the right questions, to know when it'’s serious and when we'’re OK? For example, do these tragic deaths mean that we want to insist on antibiotics in every case? I don'’t think so. Some people might say that the liberal (profligate even) use of antibiotics is contributing to the rise of these killer strains of infection. In all of these cases, though, strong antibiotics given early would have made a difference.

I personally don'’t know the answers to these questions. This is the aspect of life that scares me the most --– the way you can be blind-sided at any minute. I don'’t walk around worrying that I'’m going to die from Strep A, or that a car is going to plow through my living room window without warning, or that someone is going to run a red light as I am driving through an intersection. All of these things have happened to people I know, however. The fragility and vulnerability of even the most mundane aspects of our lives is something most people gloss over on a daily basis. How could you function if you didn'’t? It is true though, that every moment we walk on this earth is truly a gift and a blessing, and not something to lightly take for granted.


Blogger Lesley said...

Was watching on the news today about how STAPH (not strep)infections are out-of-control! Just one more thing to be freaked out about.

7:52 PM  

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