Thursday, January 06, 2005

Save one life, its as if you saved the entire world. mess up one life.....?

Last week I saw a patient in the office I have been taking care of for a couple of years. I first met him in a psychiatry ward, where he had been put for evaluation of his Altzheimer's disease. He had all the classic signs, poor memory, speech problems,etc. They were planning to send him to hospice, as his symptoms seemed to be progressing quite rapidly. Unfortunately, no one had ever done a scan of his brain, and when it was done, it showed a large benign tumor, pressing on his brain. After surgery, he gradually improved, and when I saw him this past week, he was totally normal. NORMAL. He is working, driving, enjoying his family, totally normal(well, except for the nicely healed scar on his head).

The point of this story is certainly not self aggrandizement, especially because what transpired was ordinary care of a patient. There was nothing heroic about it, just doing what normally should and would be done. But I think that in many cases, there is a point in people's lives where some sort of intervention makes a huge difference. In this case, it obviously was a medical issue. With others, it is a financial need, or a legal problem. Sometimes it is an emotional or psychological need. The key is in identifying the problem, knowing the solution, and carrying it out in a timely manner. Sometimes accomplishing these steps is easy, sometimes not.

In Iraq, I think most Americans feel we have missed the opportunity to build a stable country. I think that if we had more people, more money, a better plan for reconstruction, we may have been able to avoid the growing mess. There may have been a key point where doing the exact right thing would have been critical to success. Obviously, it is a lot easier to identify in hindsight.

In Southeast Asia, early intervention with food, water, and keeping disease under control will be a key in controlling the further effects of the tsunami. Done right, we will look back and congradulate ourselves on keeping a horrible situation from being worse. Done wrong, and we will look back and regret what could have been done, but wasn't.

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