Saving a Life through Preventive Medicine, May 2023 Update
“My appointment with you two weeks ago saved my dad’s life.” I had seen this patient once before, and I had cared for his mother, but I couldn’t remember even meeting his father. I quickly flipped through my notes. He came in for a study of his heart, which was normal, but I had performed a study of his lung function, and diagnosed him with asthma, which I thought could explain some of his shortness of breath. I gave him an inhaler, and this was my first time seeing him again, definitely not the way I expected to start the consultation, talking about his father who I had never met.
“My father had been coughing all night,” he continued. “The next day, when we started our fast, he was having some trouble breathing. I remembered what you told me about how asthma worked, and it seemed like that was what he was going through. He had been diagnosed with asthma in India, but never had an attack like this. And his medications weren’t working.” My patient proceeded to explain how he called our clinic to advise them that he was bringing his father in, and that he would need oxygen and a breathing treatment. He got his father in his car to drive him, because he knew an ambulance would take 20 minutes and he was sure he could drive faster. But as soon as his father was in the car, he started looking panicked, like he couldn’t breathe at all.
“I could see his eyes rolling back in his head,” he told me, “he was starting to lose consciousness.” At that point, my patient grabbed the inhaler I had prescribed for him and gave a couple pumps to his father. “It was like he came back to life,” he told me, at which point both of us were choking up a little. He went on to describe his race to the clinic, how the staff were ready for him at the door, and how his father received oxygen and treatments and started breathing again. “But if I hadn’t seen you, doc, I wouldn’t have known, I wouldn’t have been able to help him.”
Some parts of this story continue to amaze me. An inhaler can save lives, but someone who is about to pass out usually can’t be revived by a pump or two of an inhaler. And most individuals who are still coming to terms with their own diagnosis don’t have the wherewithal to respond quickly to an emergency for their parent. If my patient had gone to work earlier that day, or if we had not taken the time to discuss his own preventive treatment with me, the outcome might have been different, and he wouldn’t have known what to look for or how to help his father.
As a preventive medicine doctor, it’s not always easy to see disaster averted or lives saved, at least not in the adrenaline-surging way that a surgeon or emergency room doctor might see. If I do my job perfectly, disaster is avoided and patients don’t even need to come to the hospital. But this story reaches deeply because it was the discovery of a diagnosis of lung disease in a patient who came in asking for a heart evaluation, and a bit of extra time explaining treatment in one patient which saved the life of his father. Of course, I still believe this was a miracle – God orchestrated much more here than I ever could, but it is still an affirmation of the work being done in this clinic, and that taking extra time to diagnose and explain things makes a difference.
After making plans for follow-up for the patient, I met his father in the waiting room. I gave some brief advice about what to look for as he adjusted his medications, and made a plan to follow up. As I prayed for the patient at the end of the visit, we thanked God together for the miracle of his father’s recovery and for God’s provision for this family.
This month, please pray for upcoming opportunities in training and helping patients. Keep us in mind during the NTCCA graduation on May 13th.
Thank you for your prayers and support,
Christina and Greg