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Hidden Courage

Excited lady working outWhen the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printed a daily paper, I would find a patient, Carol, sitting in the treatment room, totally lost in the daily death notices.  “I love to read these”, she exclaimed.  I didn’t find this morbid since I liked to do the same thing.

Lately, there is a phenomenon occurring daily that this student of the death notices has not seen before.  The cause of death “unexpected” is happening at an alarming frequency. “Unexpected”?  As in no one thought they were going to die, including the deceased!

This struck home this week as a family member died “unexpectedly”.  Well-intentioned people pick out reasons for the “unexpected” death, perhaps a way of making the loss both more acceptable yet distant from their own circumstances.

Was our family member’s death deserved?  It used to be we relied on the attending doctor, a pathologist or coroner to give the final verdict.  Lately the funeral home embalmer seems to be the final voice in the unexpected death.   They are quietly reporting a high frequency of blood clots.  Why?  Who knows and if they do, they are not saying.

To the relative who died unexpectedly, she was a warrior, a dynamo packed in a petite package.  She was similar to the 1% of patients I see in this practice who have constant pain.  The pain is a side effect of a condition medical researchers became aware of in the past few decades.  Due to genes misbehaving they don’t process vitamin D properly.  This results in loose ligaments causing the joints to break down prematurely.  There is a simple test to determine if you are vulnerable.  The solution is also a simple one.  Unfortunately, simple does not mean easy, but is manageable and can prevent potentially dangerous surgeries.

This woman who died unexpectedly was similar to the best of our patients.  She was an overcomer.  All progress requires overcoming the obstacles in the way of a healthier future.