A Parent’s Nightmare

Last month I wrote a post titled The Miracles and Limitations of Modern Healthcare that was prompted by my family's experience at Brenner Children's Hospital where our son had a procedure called a cardiac ablation to take care of a heart condition he'd been dealing with for a couple of years. I wrote the post the day after my wife and I had our son safely home following a successful procedure. As you can imagine we were thrilled with the outcome, but that thrill was tempered by some of our experiences in the waiting room. Here's part of what I wrote:

Unfortunately modern medicine also has its limitations. While we were in the waiting room during our son's surgery a doctor came out and met with a mother and grandmother waiting near us. It was very early in the morning and most of the folks in the waiting area were asleep, thus it was pretty quiet. We tried our best not to eavesdrop, but it was impossible not to hear pieces of what the doctor was telling the mother – that her child did indeed have some rare, malignant cancer. It was also impossible not to hear the mother's crying and her mother trying to console her. And quite frankly it was impossible not to break down ourselves once they left – I haven't cried in public since I was a child, and I'm not ashamed to say that I just couldn't hold it together. I can't imagine going through what that family is going through right now.

Right now our country is dealing with a lot of change in our health care system thanks in large part to theAffordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. There's (rightfully) a lot of discussion about how our health care system and the related health insurance industry work. The debate often focuses on cost and on whether or not we're moving towards a system of "socialized" medicine similar to Canada's or the UK's, and if we are, whether that will lead to a stall in medical advances that have led to every day "miracles" like what our family experienced.

Those are all worthy discussion points, but after yesterday all I could think was this: when it's your child in the operating room you really don't care how expensive the procedure is, you just want him to have whatever it takes to make him well. I would gladly live in a cardboard box in order not to have to hear what that poor mother next to us heard. Whatever we do I hope we continue to work towards making sure that fewer and fewer parents have to hear that their child doesn't have a miracle available to them at any price.

Today we learned that a 15 year old student at our son's high school, a boy named Ryan Wood, died today of cancer. His classmates had started a #prayforryan campaign on Twitter, which brought his and his family's ordeal to the attention of the media, celebrities like West Forsyth alumnus Chris Paul, and the community at large. When he passed away today a lot of us in the community heard about it, and that's what is prompting this post.

Ryan was treated at the same hospital – Brenner Children's Hospital – as our son, which means he had access to some of the best treatment available anywhere. When I heard his story I couldn't help but think back to the experience in the waiting room, and I couldn't help but wonder about how Ryan's family can possibly deal with this loss. And I can't help but hope and pray that the capabilities, the miracles,  of modern medicine keep expanding at an ever faster rate so that fewer and fewer families have to discover the absolute devastation that they are feeling with the loss of their son today. 

If you are a religious person please keep the Wood family and all families dealing with tragic loss in your prayers. If you aren't religious please send kind thoughts and reflections their way. 

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