Healthcare Lesson On a Plane Ride

{Sacramento International Airport}

On my flight from Austin (where I spoke at the SNMA conference) to Sacramento last week, I sat next to a kind, wise man in his 80s who explained his history of diabetes as he pulled out his glucose meter to check his blood sugar.  “I hope you don’t mind needles, but my blood sugar tends to run high during plane rides,” he said.  I let him know that I was a physician and didn’t mind at all, then told him a story of how I helped a lady who fainted from low blood sugar a few days ago during my flight from Los Angeles to Austin.  He replied, “Oh, when my blood sugar gets low to around 50, my eyes pop out so I know to sip some orange juice to bring my blood sugar back up.”

When the flight attendant came around, I watched him request a glass of water and some peanuts as a snack.  “My blood pressure was running low today and my doc told me I should have a little salt and some water when I get this way,” he said.

Quite impressed by his self-awareness and knowledge of his medical issues, I asked how he became so pro-active in his care.  “I’ve had a great doctor for the last 20 years and he always lets me know when I’m doing something right or wrong when it comes to my health, and I listen because I know he cares.”  I looked at him and smiled with a bit of nostalgia and envy as I said, “You’re lucky to have a wonderful doctor.”

Made me wonder how much more proactive and healthier people could be if so much bureaucracy didn’t get in the way of the doctor-patient relationship.

16 thoughts on “Healthcare Lesson On a Plane Ride

  1. Yes, I can where the bureaucracy continually gets in the way of the doctor-patient relationship–an obstacle to a positive transference. “because I know he cares.” Are there any more important words in the human experience?

  2. This was such a great post. Thanks for sharing! I’ve heard stories about physicians becoming “jaded” the more they go on through their journey and this is such a great reminder that it is our campassion that will truly make us great physicians.

    • hi! these days it’s unfortunately far easier to get jaded due to the huge demands placed upon us throughout the process of our training, then when the reality of politics gets in the way of us being able to fully be the compassionate docs we set out to be when we started med school. the true hope (which i’m glad u pointed out in your comment) is that if we recognize our worth and prioritize compassion for the patients we treat, then we’ll make career decisions that won’t compromise on those values as well 🙂

  3. I love this post too – you are another one of the “gems” – a doctor who truly cares.
    You’re a physician whose heart is in her work!
    You’re racking up the frequent flier miles….I could see you write a HuffPost Healthy Living series: “A Psychiatrist’s Lessons On A Plane” (But I know you could jazz up that title! 😉

  4. Glad to hear about your lessons 🙂 Found you through instagram and I sent you an email to ask a couple questions. That being said, since I have a vested interest in the future physician-patient relationship and have been noticing that healthcare is becoming increasingly corporate– it makes me wonder how certain physicians are providing such care to their patients without having to raise their fees or becoming concierge medical doctors (which I’m not against– but I am all for affordable, accessible healthcare, and feel badly for a patient who has a physician who suddenly turns into a concierge physician.) This makes you think a lot about where healthcare is headed, and why the doctor-patient contact sort of places people into a divisive schism where it’ll be hard to navigate patient visits in the future.

    • Hi Christa! Thanks for your comment and for finding me through IG! Will check my email…it sometimes takes me sevral days before i reply, but i get to them eventually 🙂 Healthcare system has changed drastically and corporate med makes it very difficult to invest much time into the physician-patient relationship the way it used to be. THe only chance is in our future docs — in order for corp med to survive, they need physicians to be on board. We have more power than we realize.

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