Can’t afford to live
Can’t afford to live.
My day started as it always does with the bustling of patients in the busy office practice. With each person a different set of issues that need to be addressed and in that time as much healing as possible to be processed. Then along comes a client who stomps you dead in your tracks with their complaint that you cannot hope to deliver a satisfactory outcome and you question your role as physician in the cogwheel of health care.
He had had numerous heart attacks and for the litany of ailments he was forced to take numerous medications. He looks at me with the weight of the world bowing his small shoulders, and sunken eyes recessed with little sleep. Haggard and disheveled he attempts a smile as I walk in the room. I ask him how is he doing and how can I help him? His response has haunted me yet. “Doc it is too expensive to live.” I curiously inquired to clarify his statement. He replies dejected ” I can’t afford to live.”
My heart sank with these replies to a low I had not experienced till then. Tears rolled down both our eyes as we understood the nature of his predicament of the costs of medications, insurances, living costs and so on and so forth. With rising costs of everything, and with ailing health, he was broken. His very core was damaged almost irreparably. Almost. We dried our tears and discussed his financial, and health situation. He was more concerned about the money to pay for the fuel to his aging car to even come to the appointment. He vented about the disparity of incomes and the dwindling job market. At times such as this, there is only space for healing by being silent and listening. The best medication was too costly for him, yet the cheapest therapy was the act of holding space for his grief to metabolize and unfold into whatever form it was to undertake. The pause to listen to the barrage of the speaker is in itself the very act of spontaneous healing that many crave for, and not just from their health care professionals yet also from a friend or spouse.
I have no great solution to solve his finances as I struggle with my own. I have no greater ideas for his health care other than the brilliant plans I had already set into motion for him, as I struggle with my own. I had only to offer my silence, as I struggle with my own need for silence to allow my heart and mind to not out pace each other, awaiting to be heard. When the conversation was then offered back to me for suggestions we uncovered some possibilities for him to seek out local resources for shelter, and for food and improving his employment opportunities. I offered to help him with some costs of medications, yet he was too embarrassed to take money from me, as he stayed in gratitude that we had the chance to talk. That was it. Talk. I completed my doctoring duties of the examination and we bid each other farewell. As he walked out I quietly slipped into his jacket pocket enough cash to fuel his car and getting his prescriptions filled.
It is not for doctoring that I see patients. It is for healing. It is not for advice that a friend unloads their problems to you. It is for healing. It is not for pity that a spouse unloads their days events at your feet. It is for healing. Healing begins with listening. It is that easy. Yet the hardest thing we can do, is to pause from our own unhealed wounds to allow someone else to heal. Yet in doing so what I have now come to realize that I heal myself expeditiously by unconditionally offering the listening that in turn is the healing for both involved.
Listen and heal, heal and listen. 2 way street.