Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Monday, February 01, 2021
    "But I'm Feeling MUCH Better Now!"

    Those of you of a certain age may remember a sitcom called "Night Court" which aired back in the 1980s. It was set in New York City and starred Harry Anderson as an unconventional judge who presided over sessions of night court, John Larroquette as the district attorney and Markie Post as the public defender. It was truly hilarious, one of the great sitcoms which has sadly been forgotten. Various character actors kept turning up on the show in recurring roles, one of which was John Astin as Harry's long-lost father. He had a history of mental illness and had been institutionalized at some time in the past. Every time he told another character about his history of mental illness he'd end his story with the phrase "But I'm feeling MUCH better now!" accompanied by a truly frightening smile. (You may remember him as Gomez Addams from The Addams Family, which made the smile even more effective.)

    The reason I bring this up...

    I am now presiding over my family's Gilligan's Island-esque setup, consisting of my parents and my aunt. My parents continue to live in the house I and my siblings grew up in; it is now much too large for them, but they have consistently refused to move. My parents have some dementia and other health problems, as well as poor mobility, so they have caregivers 24 hours a day. About six weeks ago one of the caregivers came down with COVID, followed by all the others (and my parents and myself), but fortunately everyone has recovered. 

    My aunt has metastatic cancer and two weeks ago she underwent a procedure for treatment followed by five days of chemo. She has declined significantly since; her memory is now very poor and her balance is off. Her doctor strongly recommended hospice, but we are waiting until her next appointment in one week to make that decision. In the meantime she is staying with us. 

    I am monitoring meds, fixing dinner, running errands and scheduling doctors' appointments and palliative care visits. I am, in short, seeing medical care from the other side. The experience has convinced me that the US medical system needs far, far more social support than we currently have available. And we are the lucky ones; my parents can afford to pay for home help. This takes a huge amount of stress off me but it is still difficult. 

    So how does "Night Court" fit into this? Well, John Astin's catchphrase has become my new mantra: every time I feel exceptionally frustrated or at my wit's end, I tell myself "But I'm feeling MUCH better now!" 

    It seems to help. Give it a try the next time you're feeling stuck.

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