Being a traveling doctor and getting to spend quality time with 8 patients a day has given me much more moral reward than working in a conventional clinic or hospital setting in which I was forced to rush through seeing 20-30patients a day as a family doctor. I get to take my time and build a real bond with each patient and get to understand them well.
I visited a 90-year-old Caucasian woman with silver curly hair and a great smile who really appreciated a young doctor like me visiting her in a senior assisted care facility. She seemed to be very mentally sharp, articulate appearing happy and pleasant.
However, upon looking up her past medical history, I found out that a couple months ago, she had an overdose accident that required a lengthy hospitalization. Upon probing further, she confessed to me that she felt that it was not right for an old person like her to be still living and taking up space in the world. She wanted to end it altogether. So one night, she sat in her chair and took the whole bottle of Tylenol pills she had hoping she would be in heaven the next day. But the next morning, she woke up in the hospital intensive care unit being poked by nurses and hooked up to numerous machines. Her intention was to end the cost of her living because she felt like the resources could be distributed to serve other people who are younger and had more to look forward to in life. But she couldn’t die and ended up spending so much more money on hospital bills for three weeks. She finally recovered from the overdose poisoning and came home but her daughter was so pissed off at her for attempting suicide that she stopped talking to her. She realized it had been a foolish attempt that messed up her finances and relationships and decided not to do it again. But she told me she still feels that it’s strange that people have to outlive against their wishes due to modern medicine.
She told me she had a great life. Unlike many other women of her generation, she was able to go to college and she became a school teacher and then got a masters degree in special education and became a special Ed pioneer during the world war 2 era. She’s been married, had four children but suffered from postpartum depression all four times without a supportive husband, endured a loveless and abusive marriage until the kids were old enough to be on their own, went through a divorce. She then met another man and enjoyed 15years of a blissful marriage but he passed away 20years ago and she’s been on her own ever since keeping busy writing textbooks about special education and winning national awards on being the best special education leader as a principal in a big public school.
When she became too frail to take care of herself, she moved into a luxurious assisted living facility for seniors where nurses manage her medications and check in on her everyday, a chef prepares all her meals in a cafeteria where she can socialize with other senior citizens, the staff organize group social events such as going out to museums, concerts and casinos and transport anyone interested on a shuttle bus. The administrative staff would also escort her to doctor’s appointments every Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her four children and grand children would visit her occasionally. It sounds like a paradise. She feels lucky to have amassed a fortune to be able to live in this type of facility at the end of her life. However, she can’t understand why she needs to live so long. She said she has had enough of living and feels that it’s time to go. She is sick and tired of waking up in pain every morning, having to take all the pills the nurses bring to her, stumbling around the room and hallway on her four wheel walker and seeing her fellow senior citizens complain about being in pain and feeling lonely.
I told her God had a special mission for her and it wasn’t her time to go yet. And she told me she does not believe in God.
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