“Excuse me, is someone sitting there?” an elderly woman asked, pointing to the seat next to mine. I shook my head and tucked in my legs as she fumbled to the seat. We sat in silence as I waited for my mother in the hospital’s lobby. I looked at the broken clock ahead of me and back at the woman next to me. Her hands were shaking and she dropped the brown bag she had been clasping tightly; bottles of pills, syrups, and creams rolled across the floor.
“Here you go,” I said as I handed over two bottles that had rolled my way. “Is anything missing?”
“No, these are all of them. Thank you so much.”
“Of course, no problem.”
Noting my North American accent, she smiled. “Where are you from?”
We exchanged stories about our years in Canada; I learned that Angela was a retired teacher from Alberta and was in Thailand now for her husband’s post-transplant treatment. We discussed our shared love of poutine, the breath-taking Rockies, and our difficulties in finding our way around Thailand without speaking the language. And then silence again.
“You know, we never discussed the long-term effects of the surgery,” she paused. “He’s been on the same drugs for years and the liver is working just fine. But sometimes I wonder, what else happened?”
Over the next hour, Angela described how her husband had grown more impatient and angry after his liver transplant. It was a gradual change that she initially dismissed, attributing his behaviours to the situation. “It was like I was waiting for the moment to pass and it never did. I realized that this had become the new normal” Angela explained the transformation of her husband’s character. It was eight years since he had undergone his surgery and she did not know how to discuss the subtle change with him, nor did she know whom she could speak to for help. His coworkers and family members had also noticed the change. “That’s just how things go” was the best explanation anyone offered her.
This short exchange reminded me to consider medicine holistically. Physicians must not only tend to physical wounds but must also be cognizant of the mental, social, and emotional well-being of patients, their families, and their communities. This is a tall order and we need to devise systems that are better equipped to support long-term wellness. In my opinion, this requires a community-based approach involving many key players: physicians, social workers, pharmacists, community engagement workers, patients, their families, and many others. Innovations in medical technology will allow us to connect with a diverse team and engage in discussions that emphasize comprehensive care.
It will be interesting to see how the healthcare system evolves, especially with the growing geriatric population, to provide care that addresses the multi-faceted needs of our population.
(Written by Aninditee Das / Image Source)