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MY REAL OR FICTONAL HISTORY ABOUT MEDICINE

Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.

Hugh Prather, Author of Shining Through

An Ailing System

In my second year at the University, I met F... We had a class together and became study partners, and it was obvious that our friendship was heading toward something more. After sometimes we decided just to be good friends.

Then one morning I got a call “F dead,” friend. I laughed nervously. It seemed that he’d figured out that F. and I were becoming more than friends. But that wasn’t the case. “I’m serious,” he said. “F. collapsed in the shower this morning and he’s dead. Well-he’s in the hospital on life support until his eyes can be donated, but he’s brain-dead. They found a brain tumor.” He reminded me then of how F. had always complained of   headaches. His frat friends had chided him about being hungover, but he wasn’t a big drinker. I’d even prodded her to go to the doctor, which she did, but the doctor told her it was nothing, so she’d laughed it off.

“You worry too much,” she’d told me.

At F. memorial service, I felt so guilty. Why hadn’t I been more adamant about her going to the doctor? Why didn’t any of us realize something was really wrong with her? She had symptoms-how could nobody know? Would she still be alive if she’d gotten some tests? I watched his parents and thought how their grief was simply unimaginable.

A healthy, active, wonderful daughter. One day, off at college, playing on the tennis team, planning for her future. The next day, gone. But most of all, I just felt an incredible sense of loss of what might have been for F.. She would never get the chance to graduate from college, never have a career, never get married and have kids. All his dreams, all his chances, gone in an instant. I promised myself two things that day. First, I would make the most of every day-I would try to be happy and live life in the present, not wait until tomorrow. Second, I would always try to remember F. , to keep his memory alive-she deserved that.

We didn’t have a big relationship, had only known each other about a year, but somehow what made me the saddest was the life to come that F. and his family had lost. In my youthful naiveté I just didn’t understand that this was a much more common place tragedy than I could have ever imagined and, inexplicably, would continue to become more and more common here, where we have the most respected health care system in the world.

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