No one asks the soldier whether she is afraid to die. That is her job. Healthcare workers are not afraid of dying, but like all parents, they fear leaving their children without a mother or father. Last night, my son asked me the question I have been dreading. “What if you and daddy die of Covid-19?”
Piper was the first and the only patient in nearly 20 years of practice for whom I have signed the birth certificate and the death certificate. 100 years ago, country doctors did that sort of thing frequently, but today, it is rare. It remains one of the hardest things I have ever done as a physician.
Recently, a jury in Oklahoma City ordered insurance giant Aetna to pay $25 million to the family of Orrana Cunningham, an Aetna customer who died of cancer after the company refused to cover radiation therapy. “The jury ruled that Aetna recklessly disregarded its duty to deal fairly and in good faith with Cunningham,” according to a Nov. 10 article by the Associated Press.
Something that cannot be lost is almost 27 years of shared memories. His smile is indelibly imprinted on my brain, his laugh can be found tucked away deep inside my soul, and his infectious personality is intricately woven into each story I share. Preparing him for those job interviews, giving him advice about girls, and helping him clean his perpetually messy apartment are experiences to be cherished for the rest of my life.
How did he let her go? Does he not know we cut patients open and save lives? The shock wore off slowly and then a week later, we reviewed the autopsy report. It provided a remarkable lesson never to be forgotten. Somehow, her father knew better than the healthcare team, what was best for his child. I was not ready, yet he was prepared to let her go and made the right decision.
After having four children of my own, my parenting goals are now simpler than they might have been before this tragic event. The “best-I-can-do” parenting is good enough; everything does not have to be perfect. My little brother grabbed life with both hands and experienced everything he possibly could in the moment. I strive to make the most of each and every day with my children and be grateful for that time, in honor of my little brother. He would not have wanted it any other way.