Life perspective in hard times
Are you having a bad day or a stretch of bad luck? You’re not alone. Many people are in serious pain these days with the worst economy of a generation, badly depressed property values, home foreclosures in every neighborhood, businesses failing and double-digit unemployment.
The natives are restless, and they have every right to be.
We all have scary stories about family members, friends and neighbors who lost their jobs or businesses, have tax problems, a mortgage default and many other financial woes.
What stands out is that so many people are affected — including those who played life by the rules until the rug was pulled out from under them. Sure, some took crazy risks or lived recklessly financially, but mostly the bad times involve good people stuck in the crosshairs of things outside their control.
Thus what I call “the Scott heard ’round the world.” That is, the political shocker in Massachusetts, where arguably the safest U.S. Senate seat switched to the opposing party. It was a political game-changer after candidate Scott Brown tapped the populist ire to change the paradigm. The vote had many dimensions, but most pundits agree that at its core was frustration about economic conditions — more broadly, what’s happening (or not happening) in Washington, D.C.
The point being, there’s a lot of frustration and discouragement in the land and individual tragedies that never make the evening news. As I fly across the country, I can’t help but look down at the thousands of homes that dot the landscape and wonder what hard times are under each roof.
This morning, I was reminded that while most of us are dealing personally or professionally with the roller coaster that is our current economy — and the school bus industry is certainly no exception — there are some who are dealing with much more.
I recently took friends to the airport for an important journey they need to make. They’re not flying off to the Mexican Riviera or Disneyland to escape the cold winter. They’re off to Omaha, Neb., where the wife, age 40, will undergo a big surgery. Life-or-death surgery.
Assuming one can be found before her medical situation further deteriorates, she will undergo a kidney transplant — her third kidney transplant.
Transplants are on the high end of the complexity scale for surgeons and the medical team that treats the patient afterward. But this patient adds a whole other layer of complexity to the process, and it gives perspective to those of us who are generally healthy.
Hers is a fascinating medical and human story. She’s also had three liver transplants, the last of which was in the early 1990s (and it’s still going strong).
Replacement kidney No. 2 began failing several months ago, and she’s now at a crisis point where her only survival option is another transplant. Because of scar tissue and issues from the other surgeries and the medications she takes, kidney dialysis is not an option.
On top of these surgeries, she’s needed both hips and shoulders replaced (they were harmed by the medications taken to prevent organ rejection). Her daily existence involves medicine, fear of organ rejection, testing and a careful diet. Her very existence is a delicate medical balancing act — every single day.
Having received this unfortunate draw in the card game of life, you’d think she would be angry. No! She’s one of the most upbeat, full-of-life people I’ve ever met. She never dwells on her medical problems or complains about bad luck. She and her husband live life to the fullest. They have every motivation to do so because they understand just how precious life is, and how financial troubles are just about money — difficult, but they pale in comparison to medical problems.
Some may ask a reasonable ethical question: Is it fair that she’s had so many organ transplants while others are still on lists waiting for their first? The simple answer is that she goes on all the same lists and waits her turn, even when her situation is very critical, as it is now.
Beyond this issue, here’s a woman who is a medical miracle, a living statement about the quality of medical care in the U.S. Her transplants are providing not just life for her, but life for others who will undergo surgery after her as doctors learn from her transplants and the management of her health.
She left today with a smile on her face and full of confidence that she’ll have another lease on life. Gives you perspective on the speed bumps in your life, doesn’t it?
Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.
Barry McCahill is communications consultant for the National Association for Pupil Transportation.