A Tribute to Caregivers Everywhere


Surviving cancer just got easier, thanks to these angels.

Over the years, I’ve heard some stories of medical nightmares regarding poor service or uncompassionate behavior in the medical communities. But this story is not about those accounts.

For one thing, with some pretty serious medical history behind me now, I’ve never met a physician, surgeon, nurse or hospital receptionist who has not been both professional and helpful. How is this possible in a business rife with turmoil and stress, and patients in great pain with short tempers?

Just out of major surgery 48 hours ago here in Arizona, and still in a good deal of pain from a full knee replacement, I am coherent enough to take a deep and grateful look at the 20 or so medical professionals who treated me in my overnight stay, and stand up (with the aid of my walker of course) to applaud each and every one of them.

My nursing staff — the ones who woke me up every two hours to take my vital signs, draw blood, deliver my medication or change my dressings, were dedicated and patient with me, and each had a fascinating personal story that they were willing to share.

One young nurse, three months pregnant, planned to continue her work as long as possible before her delivery time because, “I’m hooked on helping people” she told me. Another got into nursing because of her love for children, and planned on becoming a pediatric nurse. The several “old timers” were both efficient and filled with humor, a gift they had picked up out of necessity over the years. All of them explained every procedure to me and answered every question I had about my own health and healing.

Just over a year ago, I underwent double hernia surgery here in Tucson at a different hospital. On the day of my surgery, I entered through the automatic doors that led to the surgical registration desk, feeling a bit apprehensive naturally, and as the big doors burst open to reveal a beautiful room lighted in blues and greens, two well-dressed and smiling, and yes, giggling, women moved toward me, arms open wide while announcing “Welcome Mr. Barnes—we’ve been waiting for you!”

We proceeded to laugh our way through the registration process until I was ceremoniously presented with my surgical wristband, and handed over to the next set of positive, upbeat nurses.

Perhaps I’m just lucky to have found such consistently uplifting medical personnel. Hawaii, where I was first diagnosed with male breast cancer and received my mastectomy surgery, is often ranked number 1 in the list of states offering the best medical care. As fate would have it, I got a firsthand look at the “spirit if aloha” at work. And it does work.

I believe that to some degree, we are all responsible for our own experiences in the medical arena. While I have often expressed my squeamishness with regard to bloodwork, mammograms and MRIs, I have found that when I am honest with the medical technicians, they are more than willing to “walk me through” the procedures which they perform. And they all have truly fascinating stories about what brought them into the medical profession. More often than not, it is a connection with people or the desire to be of service, or even a past experience with a family member needing medical attention that drew them into helping those who are sick or suffering.

And so to all of you in this business of medicine, who have chosen this route over so many other paths and who count your own blessings by preserving our blessings, I say “bravo!” I applaud you from the bottom of my heart sing your praise from the top of my lungs and offer thanks from the depths of my soul.

I simply couldn’t have done it without you.


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