By Elizabeth Seal
Wow! I have been asked to write a blog, I never would have thought that someone might be interested in the wandering thoughts of this old lady. Thank you for letting me share with you why I believe that I have the best job in the world. You ask me why I say that? I get to wake up every day and spend my energy on achieving the best possible outcomes for my patients – the invisible people that everyone has forgotten. These are your neighbors that work at the grocery stores or gas stations or the personal care attendants for your family. They maybe used to work in the textile industry or at a local factory and are worn out. They might be working at a local fast food chain. What they have in common is that they are poor and have a chronic disease and either cannot afford insurance or will never get disability, and therefore, Medicaid because they aren’t sick enough to meet the requirements. They might be going to the ER when they are sick enough and have been out of their medications which they have been rationing. But the ER is not a primary care facility. They range in age from 19 to 64 and they have a variety of issues that landed them in our office.
I have been fortunate enough to hear their stories; I celebrate their successes. I encourage them to take part in opportunities for education; just as I did. Emory University paid for my graduate degree, but I had to work full-time in the ICU to receive that gift. I tell them it is possible and even easier since you can take online classes. I listen to their stories of sadness and realize that sometimes you have no answers for the bitterness that life offers some of us. Each patient has a story. Often it is a series of events that ended in a tailspin of destruction that led to the loss of a life that was well lived previously. Or it may be a life that never got started right and needs some direction to change the path of destructive behavior. Often, we are the first opportunity given to provide stability in the chaos they are living. My job is to provide an anchor for them. It starts with the clinic, which is a group of people who care about you. Now you must start to care for yourself. We have some necessary paperwork that we need to get your medications for free. Work with us so we can work with you.
I get to see diabetics who are transitioning between jobs and cannot risk being out of insulin. Or truck drivers that lost their CDL license, but with some change in eating habits and some fancy new oral medications will get that license back and return to work. I learn the ups and downs of people’s lives and praise their successes, coach them through the challenges and comfort them during the losses. In it all, I am better able to understand how to tailor my care so that they gain the skills to be able to make lifestyle changes. Since I worked and went to school through three college degrees, I remember those who supported me along the way and encouraged me to be successful. I remember when ½ my take-home pay paid my rent. And when my car died, I walked to the local bus stop and took the bus. All these struggles were when I was young, in good health and had a mother who did a lot of praying. As I drive home and reflect on my day, I give thanks for the gifts I had and pray for my patients to just get an even break, a chance, and the energy they will need to take advantage of that chance. And I pray that we get the support we need to make Aiken a better place with more opportunities for our neighbors. I ask everyone to remember the words from Matthew 25:40 “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Yes, this is charity but it is charity with a purpose, please, take care of yourself.