My buddy Craig died last week.
I spend a lot of time looking at the healthcare system at a macro-level. Statistics about how the system is a mess. How we’re failing to do right by our patients. Zooming out to this level allows one to be dispassionate about the situation. The unacceptability of what’s wrong with healthcare today. I’m reminded today that every statistic represents a real person dealing with the mess we’ve created.
Craig’s passing was a surprise and then again it wasn’t. He had a lot of years of hard living behind him and his body was paying the price.
Ten weeks ago he told us that he was dying. The doctors found a large tumor in his groin and he didn’t want to go through with what they were suggesting as a course of treatment. The upside wasn’t good enough to be worth the pain.
But a second opinion backed by a slew of additional tests was more positive. The doctors told him they could add years to his life. So he went ahead.
The surgery went well. They got out more than they’d expected and his prognosis was good.
Don’t get me wrong – the surgery was invasive. Skin grafts were problematic and painful. The chemo was all that chemo can be. And weakened as he was from all of this, the lung cancer killed him in just a few short weeks.
They were so focused on the tumor that, no one noticed the spots on his lungs which were visible on some of his x-rays.
I’m not angry that Craig died. It was clearly his time.
I am angry about the way he died. The pain and the cost and additional stress that he and his family were put through as a result of all of this. I can’t start picking at the motives at work here. It’s more systemic than that. The system failed him. Failed to listen to his wishes. Failed to look at the whole person. Failed to ask if this thing should be done, only if it could be done.
It’s a reminder why this needs to change. And a reminder that we need to do better.
Farewell, Craig. I’m gonna miss you, man.