Without 'them,' where would 'we' all be?

Greg Cusack
A majority of us want to do good, to be of value and of assistance, and to accept – and be accepted – as treasured members of the human community.
Greg Cusack

WE all know, from real life as well as through fictional portrayals, how one’s life can change dramatically in one nano-second.

While earlier this month I recounted my own experience 35 years ago with this phenomenon, this past Sunday (editor’s note: January 21) afforded another one.

My wife Karen had returned from work early Sunday evening complaining of a likely “food poisoning”: stomach ache, nausea, etc. By the time she went to bed she reported that her pain had subsided somewhat.

However, during the night I was awakened by her obvious distress: the pain had moved to an excruciating “10” on a pain scale of 1 to 10. While she was at first reluctant to go to the hospital, when I asked her what she would do if it were me in such pain, she quickly relented.

We arrived at the emergency room of Portland Adventist around 2:30 Monday morning. We were admitted relatively quickly (after the inevitable inquiries and paperwork) and she was wheeled into a private room where they made her as comfortable as possible.

A CAT scan was ordered and took place within a half hour. The results of that scan explained everything: She was suffering from a ruptured appendix. They immediately began administering antibiotics and medicine to reduce her pain. Around 6:00 Monday morning she was moved to a private room in that section of the hospital reserved for patients needing surgery and was actually undergoing surgery at 8:30am.

A century ago, before the introduction of antibiotics, her situation would have been, essentially, a de facto death sentence. And had we erred by trying to “tough it out” for several more hours, who knows what might have been the outcome?

Sweet people

I was honestly amazed at the level of kindness exhibited by everyone we encountered at the hospital that morning (and, for that matter, since). I remembered, both from my own near-miss with death as well as from my father’s period of declining health before his death, how health care personnel seem to be uniformly caring, sweet people.

This ongoing experience with Karen underlies that reality in spades.

Most of her emergency room nurses that morning were men, an interesting change from decades ago when male nurses in the US were rare.

It was fascinating: nurses and doctors of both genders and of multiple ethnicities! In fact, her initial surgeon — who had to hand off her surgery to another doctor because of his prior commitments elsewhere — was a man named Chi. Their hands were swift and sure while their voices and manner were gentle and assuring.

My take-aways from this:

1) As the sameness of our daily routines masks the always present possibility of a life-altering change even in our lives, please remember how important it is to always be “in a state of grace” with your families, friends, and co-workers: the grace that comes with your assuring them in word and deeds, of your love and affection for them. That way, if and when “the worst” happens, you will never have regrets over what might — and should — have been said or done.

2) Experiencing what our health care system can deliver, and also taking in the tremendous costs that appropriate facilities, equipment, and skilled personnel represent, I am newly appreciative of the great value of this system and the myriads of human beings upon which it depends. When will our country come to its moral senses and ensure that no one is denied access to the health care they need?

3) Those who fear or resent immigrants must open their minds and hearts to the realities of goodness and beauty that such “different people” bring to our land! Without them, where would “we” be?

During those early morning hours, I was privileged to witness this constant flow of different colors, shapes and sizes of members of the human race who moved and worked in remarkable precision and grace to minister to people who were hurting and in need. (During the hours I was by my beloved wife’s side I heard several different ambulance technicians communicating with their colleagues in the emergency room as they rushed to bring in victims of heart attacks or traffic mishaps who were in various stages of serious shape.)

If we allow ourselves to truly see and appreciate each other, of what is there to fear? A majority of us want to do good, to be of value and of assistance, and to accept — and be accepted — as treasured members of the human community.

The author was a member of the Iowa State House of Representatives and also served in the Iowa executive branch. He retired in 2004. Shanghai Daily condensed the article. His email: gregcusack43@gmail.com

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