Arnold Relman, a 90-year-old physician with more than 60 years’ experience treating patients in critical condition, gained a new perspective about medical care when he became a patient after tumbling down the stairs at his home.
His chronicle in the New York Review of Books of what it was like to receive treatment is a tale of helplessness, recovery, gratitude … and commentary about the state of U.S. medical care and its cost.
It’s not as if Relman never had a health problem; he has atrial fibrillation (an irregularity of the heart rhythm), polymyalgia rheumatic (a painful disorder of the muscles and joints), and aortic stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the heart valve. But these conditions are being managed, and until his accident, his hospitalizations had all been brief, and none critical.
His is a tale of wonderful care, and disorganized, disjointed, inadequate care; a tale of transformation that echoes our constant reminders: “What is important is that someone who knows the patient oversees their care, ensures that the many specialized services work together in the patient’s interest, and that the patient is kept fully involved and informed.”