This is medicine's version of not seeing the forest for the trees. The vascular surgeon and cardiologist could repair my father's body, but how would that benefit him? Could he go on living in a way that was meaningful for him? Instead of searching for the next "fix," we need to know when to use -- or not use -- our growing tool kit of "fixes."
It was heart wrenching to receive a phone call from a friend who had to stand between her two brothers in the hospital waiting room last night. Her two brothers were ready to fight outside of the Intensive Care Unit where their mother lay on a ventilator. For three days my friend's family gathered as they heard the news of her weakening condition.
My grandmother asked me to stay with her until it's over, and I can only think of a few reasons she'd ask me: She knows I'll talk about anything and won't mince words; she knows I will do anything for her if I'm able; and she knows I can be a calming presence. It took me a very long time to become a calming presence; it's still a daily practice.
"You want to get a Do Not Resuscitate tattoo on your chest?" I asked, as one might say to a friend whose goal was to lose 50 pounds. You'd support it, but you knew it would never happen. "No, I have one," she said quietly, pulling her shirt aside modestly to show the skin over her heart muscle. I stared at it unbelieving.