Abundance is defined as “the state or condition of having a copious quantity of something” or “plentifulness of the good things of life: prosperity”.
The massive havoc of the pandemic causes us to shrink in the face of human frailty, morbidity, and mortality rather than feel expansive and abundant. Even the vaccine efforts are enveloped in distrust and scarcity.
As I sit to write this article I dance between medicine’s possibilities and limitations.
Weeks ago a family member was admitted to the hospital in ill health. The test result came back: COVID positive.
Despite the ICU team’s efforts not to intubate him, the time came when they had no alternative. As they brought me into the family room to discuss his care, I knew it was a place I never wanted to be. Multiple times in my career I had sat on the physician side of the table, updating families and giving a prognosis they did not want to hear.
Now I sat on the family side of the table.
I asked for the numbers, knowing the numbers really mean very little because you don’t know which category the patient will fall in. I heard the doctor say out of 20 COVID patients they had seen in his condition, 4 or 5 had been discharged. I held onto the 4 or 5.
I asked for the XRAY results and held on to hope when we learned that one area of his lungs had opened up. That meant there was some improvement.
As I watched from behind the glass window the doctor in me, who knew what the numbers on the monitor meant, who understood the story behind the ventilator settings, and heard everything that the ICU team said, still wasn’t ready to accept the limitations of medicine.
Do everything. Do everything. Do everything.
And the ICU team did everything… until there was nothing more to do.
He did not survive. The damage to his lungs and other organs caused by COVID was far greater than what medicine could offer at this time.
As thousands and thousands of other families across the world have done, I kept the faith. Holding on to faith and hope is where abundance triumphs over limitations.
Hope and faith transcends the damage that the virus causes to the human body.
Hope and faith overcomes the grief that overwhelms us when we think of the loss.
Hope and faith opens the way to the love that is found in the memories of the times once shared.
Hope and faith asks us to continue to grow and expand in medicine.
As the world creates a new normal, we must do the same in medicine. The pandemic has not just taken away from us. It has revealed the opportunities for growth and expansion.
It has revealed the huge impact that racial inequalities and disparities in access to care have on patient outcomes. This information was always there and we ignored it.
Now it is asking us to do something about it.
I sit with my grief asking myself, “Do I give up on medicine for letting me down, for its limitations, for its inability to cure all?”
Or do I renew my faith in the abundance of life and all that is, including medicine, knowing that all the lives that have been lost to COVID are not lost in vain? They are the impetus that we need to step into the abundance and expansion of medicine. And in life.