Three Seasons in Hell

The view from one of my husband's hospital room windows on a snowy March evening almost could have passed for a tropical sunset.

In upcoming weeks I will be speaking at several different hospitals about my husband’s and our family’s wildly varying experiences with hospitals and treating physicians during the course of his terminal illness.

I have been told no one remembers hearing from a patient’s family at hospital rounds.  This does not surprise me.  Who, after all, would want to continue revisiting and answering questions about such dark days?  I do it in honor of my husband, a physician who dedicated his professional life to trying to  deliver better health care to everyone.

While I am a great believer in telling people what they have done well, I think in this realm there is little room for improvement if one hears only the good stories.

It remains within my wheelhouse to recount the good and the bad in excruciating detail.  As for my own style of delivery, which could not be more different than my husband’s gentle diplomacy; let’s just say my father-in-law never laughed so hard as he did when I once described myself as a wallflower.      Continue reading “Three Seasons in Hell”

A Certain Verticality

My husband as a CME?  It was Suessical-ly strange to see.

Jim appreciated impromptu poetry of dubious quality, and endlessly humored me; I promise he would have approved such an introduction, though the occasion was solemn.

And he would greatly have appreciated today’s actual introductions to an inaugural annual memorial lecture in his honor.

When both knew he had little time left, the CEO of my husband’s hospital discussed with him what he would like his legacy there to be.  The hospital’s trustees honored him by establishing a lecture series in cutting-edge health care issues, which is something I know pleased Jim to contemplate.

A decade earlier, my husband had acquired his ideal job: maintaining opportunities for direct patient care while overseeing, envisioning, implementing and improving new health care initiatives and systems.  As a colleague of his observed, “Jim was a visionary that way.”

Today’s topic was “Reorganizing Healthcare Delivery”; in health care lingo, the objective for Continuing Medical Education purposes was for physicians to “Understand how an integrated health system operates.  Learn about how to merge multiple medical information systems.”

Jim knew a copious amount, and constantly spun out new ideas, about such issues.  I know little more about such subjects than I do about signal processing, although my involuntary immersion in health care following my husband’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer somehow left me alarmingly able to grasp much of today’s discussion.

As with Jim’s Closing Ceremonies; it was gratifying to see so many people he knew, thinking about issues which were so central to his professional life, and in a sense being there for him.

Today two things caught my attention above all others, both courtesy of a physician colleague and friend who inherited some of Jim’s tasks.

First was something he said in introducing the lecture, because I had not heard it said before:  in the years when Jim would no longer be there to share ideas with his colleagues, Jim had indicated he “wanted people to hear new things.” Continue reading “A Certain Verticality”

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