I spent 5 hours in the last few weeks in the infusion clinic, while a machine, tubes, needles, and gravity worked together to slowly drip artificial minerals into my body, replenishing what apparently my body cannot produce on its own.
I have many, many reasons to be angry and frustrated with the medical system right now (and for the last many years).
But mostly, while sitting there, I found myself filled with awe and gratitude. Awe for the hundreds of scientists whose layers upon layers of discoveries and innovations made the diagnosis and the treatment possible. (If I stop and try to actually list all the discoveries and innovations the had to happen for this simple procedure to exist, my mind is overwhelmed within minutes: Who discovered that we have iron in our blood? How did they figure out the right kinds of needles to remove blood from the body and test these things? And who created the different kind of needles that put things back into the body? Who came up with the numbering system for determining what’s “normal” and when intervention is called for? How many people, and for how long, had to work full-time to find an artificial formulation that the body would not reject? Who created the colored sticky tape that’s now replaced bandaids in the clinic? And on and on… ). Gratitude for the bureaucracies that ensure that the clinic is properly staffed at the right times, that the people working in the clinic have the training they need, that they know what to give me and what to give the elderly woman in the chair at the end of the row – whose chemo drip began long before I sat down and who the nurse tells, just before I leave, “only another hour”. Awe at the supply chains that ensure that those nurses have the gloves, and the sticky tape, and the tubes, and the medicines ready when needed. Gratitude for a previous President and Congress who had the knowledge and intention and compassion and political willpower to make sure that people like me have access to insurance that will pay for these treatments – and that, despite my precarious income, I am able to pay the not-inconsequential “co-insurance” required of me. Gratitude that I have the resources and the physical ability to drive myself to the clinic today. Gratitude to the volunteer who showed up with warm blankets and tea and cookies.
All of this, just so that people like me might feel better, might be able to go about our lives and take care of our families and do the work we do in the world. Really, at some level, why should anyone else care about that? Yet this amazing, complex system is in place for just that reason.
It’s awe inspiring, when you stop and actually think about it – which we (I) do not do nearly enough.