Today, July 15, is a really important day to me- for both happy and sad reasons. This day in 1993 is when I physically lost my best friend. My grandmother, Bella, was and is a large part of who I am as a person. She taught me about hard work, determination, unconditional love, and empathy. She is also the main reason why I not only became a Family Physician, but also why I left the insurance-based system behind for this new endeavor of Direct Primary Care. I knew people deserved better because I knew she always deserved better.
My grandmother was stricken by early onset dementia at the age of 62 and rapidly declined over the course of my high school years until her death in the summer of 1993 following my graduation. Although her death was a finality, it was also a blessing. She never wanted to live her life the way she was at that time, nor did she want to be a burden on anyone. My family struggled to get her approved for Medicaid after she worked her entire life. As a result, we were unable to get her coverage for a nursing home. We cared for her at home until it was simply unsustainable. As awful as it was, it taught me what people deserve when they are ill. It taught me that we treat our animals better than we do our loved ones. The system was screwed up even back then. So she lived in the nursing home until her money ran out after which she died peacefully in her own home with me by her side.
I have always used this experience to guide me through college, medical school, residency, and now my career. I miss her guidance and love every single day, but I know that I am finally happy as a physician because of her. I will always look back at her and my relationship with her, but I will never look back at a system that prevents doctors and physicians from caring for each other and does nothing to secure the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship. Is that not what medicine was based on in the first place? Hopefully she is fully resting in peace knowing that her only grandchild is happily doing the right thing and being the doctor she knew I could be.