We have all learned to be serious. But many have forgotten to laugh.
I take care of sick and injured people for a living. People take their health and the health of their loved ones very seriously and so do I. In the past months I’ve taken care of two people who’s stories I’d like to tell. These two people were not serious at all.
One was a middle aged man. He was from out of town, a business man, an executive who had passed out during a lunch break between executive meetings. He wore nice clothes, his shoes were polished and his watch was shiny and thick. His friends had all but forced him to come to the hospital. There was concern for a heart attack, he had some symptoms and some risk factors. Although he seriously answered my questions, he and his friends never stopped smiling and laughing. After some tests, we found he had minimal but significant muscular damage to his heart. This man was not sick however. As it turned out he had passed out because he was laughing so hard. He did have some very funny companions. They continued joking, cutting up, goofing off throughout their visit. Even as his wife arrived and spoke with genuine concern, the humor and jocularity never left the room. He wasn’t a fool, on the contrary this group had something figured out. Their good humor was contagious. No one came out of that room feeling anything but light and happy, rather unusual feeling for an emergency room.
The second person had cancer. She came in one evening feeling like crap. Being off her chemo treatment for a few weeks there was no reason she should be vomiting, feeling dizzy and weak. As is often the case with cancer patients, they speak with gentleness. Her fatigue showed in here eyes, a furoughed brow beneath a bald head, thick skin with poor color after so much poison. Her family and friend were never negative. When I went in and out of the room they were telling stories about friends and family. The stories were good; funny and humorous but not really comical. I embarrassed one friend as i walked in the room at the end of a joke where the friend had a piece of tape from her nose to her forehead. Again, no one left their room with negative feelings. After a few hours, some nausea medicine and some iv fluids she felt better, “like a million bucks,” she said. I gave her the discharge note and she looked at me worried. “I think we are going out to dinner,” she said, “do you think it is all right for me to get a beer”. She smiled and I told her to enjoy herself. Health has a different meaning to her.
Anyway, most of the people I see are sick but often they are diseased with frustration, hopelessness, despair, anger, sadness and loneliness. These diseases are epidemic. It is a poverty that we call all of this depression. We don’t make drugs for these, but there is medicine. We can cure them but not alone and not in a visit to the ER. The two people whose stories are above had found a way out of that. Their health is contagious.