The day after Christmas dinner, one of our guests complained that he may have gotten food poisoning – he was so uncomfortable. No one else had the problem, but you never know – right? His wife, who has little tolerance for small complaints and ailments, told him to “get over it”.
The following day he went into work for an hour and then felt an unbelievable pain in his abdomen, so he drove himself to the doctor. Upon physical examination, an ambulance was called and he was whisked away to the hospital.
It turned out to be gall stones that had blocked a bile duct. Infection ensued and got into his blood stream. Our friend was admitted to critical care. Luckily, the duct was unplugged and he responded to the antibiotics, but he was one sick guy and is still recovering.
This entire ordeal got me reviewing —
What can we control about our health and what can’t we?
I know that I cannot control my age, sex and ethnicity, nor my family health history; so what can I control?
The obvious answer is lifestyle choices – my decisions about diet, movement and smoking. And, lastly, my choices about community and attitude.
My friend has a great relationship with his doctor, in sickness and in health, so when he arrived in the office without an appointment, the staff knew who he was and immediately addressed his situation. It made me wonder how many people have cultivated a relationship with their doctor so this quick and timely response could be relied upon, like my friend did.
The other thing I noticed is that my friend was hardly alone in the hospital. Not only did he have great care, but family came quickly to spend time with him. Friends were on standby. His wife had hardly ever been to a hospital, so I offered to go with her and help navigate. Just the physical intimidation of getting around most hospitals can be daunting, much less understanding the “who, what and when to ask your questions”. I brought my notebook just in case notes were needed.
During this process, I was reminded of an important component of health: having community and nurturing it is just as important as all the physical choices about our lifestyle. When we are vulnerable, it is so gratifying to know that with a simple phone call your tribe will do what they can. And, that reciprocity is automatic. That’s what community does.
Quality Over Quantity
As we enter 2014, I hope you’ll take the time to reflect with me– Am I a good community member? Is giving to others part of who I am? Do I have “my people” who I can call upon when times are tough? It’s not about having big numbers, but rather, quality. Friendship and Community take nourishment, just like anything else we hold dear.
Lastly, is my doctor and the staff part of my community? Do they know me and at a glance can they assess when I need help.
Remember, if I can do it, you can, too!
Here’s to a healthy 2014 for all of us. If we do our part in wellness, then in illness, hopefully, we’ll have the support and expertise we need.
Susan Levy has been on the journey of heart-healthy living for almost 25 years. She’s worked with hospitals in over 35 states to hone their messages about prevention and early detection. Susan is also publisher of the website The Well-Fed Heart which offers dietitian-approved recipes that take 5 steps or less and work for home cooks. Each week Susan offers a weekly blog, the “From the Heart Blog“, with her perspective on a health topic and how it applies to our lives, plus a new recipe.