For most of my life I’ve admired him from a distance.
George Washington was someone I knew from history classes in school and from biographies I’ve read as an adult. He deserves to be remembered with gratitude for his role in the founding of our country.
But then, yesterday, the former President and I suddenly had something in common.
I went to see my primary care physician early yesterday morning with a sore throat. I was certain it was a strep infection. I couldn’t swallow without pain. But then I can be dangerous when attempting to make diagnoses while surfing the Internet. I’ve convinced myself that I’ve had all sorts of serious illnesses, just by reading WebMD.
The primary care physician took a look at my throat and suggested I head over to the ER. Which I did. After the usual wait, the ER doctor took one look at my throat and said, “Oh, yeah.” I like quick diagnoses. I never want to be anyone’s interesting case. The ER doctor sent me up to the seventh floor to see the “ear, nose, and throat guy,” who wouldn’t be back from lunch until 1:30.
“How are you today?” he asked cheerily, as he entered the examination room. By that time I couldn’t answer without pain.
So, he took a look at my throat and said, “George Washington died from that.”
Now, just think, George and I have something in common, with the big exception that I have access to antibiotics. After a quick, but nasty little procedure involving a lot of blood and pus (one reason many people do not go into health care professions), I was on my way with a bunch of pills, including some Vicodin. I even stopped in the hospital cafeteria for a little ice cream to celebrate.
On the way home in the car I remembered hearing a similar comment during the birth of our first child. My wife had been in labor for hours and hours. (She doesn’t want me to give the actual time, but it was a long time.) Finally, our OB came into the delivery room and said, “Oh, a hundred years ago, you would have labored and labored and then died. I think we should do a c-section.” Of course we quickly agreed.
I’m thankful for antibiotics and other drugs. I’m thankful for the breakthroughs of modern medicine. I suspect people will look back a hundred years from now and marvel over the painful and barbaric treatments we use today, but right now I’m more grateful than I can say to be alive (and to be the father of a very healthy 29 year old, who came into the world through a c-section).
George Washington ultimately died by suffocating. For hours, like me, he couldn’t swallow. And then, at the end, he couldn’t breathe. It was a painful way to go.
I am more thankful today than I can say. There’s nothing like a little visit to the doctor’s office to put the rest of life into perspective.