Here are great lessons from those who have been on the ups and downs of life. Truly, our patients can help us see the world in a different perspective.
Live life to the fullest. You have but one life. As William Wallace once said, “Every man dies, not every man really lives”. No one is guaranteed good health or longevity. I continually learn this from my patients. I have seen young children succumb to cancer and accidents, witnessed patients in their 30’s and 40’s who appeared healthy die suddenly, and worked with elderly patients living with too many “what if’s”. I have learned to live each day to the fullest and appreciate the fact that I wake up each morning and go to sleep each night healthy.
Don’t take yourself or life events too seriously. If you learn one lesson in healthcare it is to find humor in everyday events. Learn to laugh at yourself. Yes, healthcare is a serious business. However, when you do something funny, learn to laugh and appreciate those events for what they are. Don’t let them build up and become regrets! I have seen too many patients hospitalized or even institutionalized because they took life too seriously and succumbed to major mental or physical illnesses. I have seen the remains of a man who shot himself because he had let small events in his life build up to that finality. Always remember, “A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles” (Mignon McLaughlin).
Strength. When you watch a patient struggle back to their baseline physical and mental capabilities after a stroke and see the diligence put into their comeback, you can find the strength for anything. You no longer worry if you can stay up that extra hour to do homework or find the fortitude to recover from the flu. You have learned – and new patients continually remind you – what being strong-willed really means. My patients teach me daily what Mahatma Gandhi has always professed: “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will”.
Importance of family. I will go back to my opening point. There is no guarantee when you are going to leave this earth or when you may have a life-altering accident or contract a fatal illness. Forgive family members and start over if you have to! Call them right now and remind them how important they are to you. My patients’ families have also taught me what love of family really means. The love and concern hey show toward the patients and the strength they give the patients to move forward is nothing short miraculous. I am also reminded each day that I visit my mother at the nursing home how important family is. So many residents never see a family member visit. Don’t let this be you.