Life’s Vulnerabilities

Desk with pen, papers, and glasses

Well my dear patients, it has been way too long since my last blog. However, it is with good reason that I have not taken the time to pen my thoughts. It has been one of the most intense personal times of my life. You see, I have lost both of my parents to death in the past four months. I would have never suspected that this would occur. I reluctantly use the word surreal, but that is exactly what it feels like, surreal.

My father, Joe, passed two days after Thanksgiving; he had acute myeloid leukemia and COPD. I was able to see him prior to his death. For the last number of years, we were not close (his choosing) and he had divorced my mom about 31 years ago and had a whole different family. We were not blended. His illness and passing was very difficult because while in the end there was a reconciliation but it was not in the movie script way. It was a very quiet and deep understanding on both the emotional and spiritual level that allowed us both to know all is forgiven.

I had heard certain spiritual leaders speak of forgiveness and being able to *get to the place* where you see the other individual as an innocent child of god. I always thought that would be an interesting concept. I doubted that I would ever arrive at such a place.

However, in my father’s passing, I can attest to the fact that I actually arrived at that place where I did see him as an innocent child of god. Dad was actively dying and as I sat bedside, dad rested mostly in a comfortable manner. There was a beautiful white river of light that was parallel between each of us and we could toss or place all wrongs and hurts in the river. We even placed our joys there as well. As that occurred in turn, there was an amazing sense of peace and healing and unconditional love that became real and apparent between us. I was at peace and felt complete. When my father passed, I was able to mourn his life, his death and the parts of life that I wish we had been able to share.

Returning to the office was more difficult than I thought. My brain was fuzzy, and I was numb and not as productive in all of my other projects. Side note, this is not an easy thing to write about as physicians are often seen as *above life itself*. Truly there were some days much better than others and I slowly found my feet again. Even though I was not close with my father for much of my life, I could quickly identify the times in life when I was, and I relived them in my mind and heart.

But in the day to day life, I was not always sharp, I was grieving. As it is my job to first do no harm, I felt confident we had overcome that hurdle, (you may breathe a sigh of relief) but I found myself more tired, introverted and less tolerant of the day. All of this is a part of grief.

The holiday season was in full swing, but I was not quite in the spirit as they say, this was because of my Dad’s passing. During this time, had many conversations with my brother, sister and mom about his life and death and I noticed that we all grew closer, we had greater understanding of one another. It was very interesting to grow emotionally in this time as a result of the grief.

My mom made a spontaneous visit in December when she drove across country with her brother from Michigan to Utah. They drove to see family in Utah and then came through Colorado on their way home. It was good to see her, and I tried to convince her to stay with us by saying that I would simply put her back on a plane sometime after the holidays. But she returned to Michigan for the Christmas holiday.

My mom, Henrietta, passed on March 14 as a result of a dissecting thoracic aortic aneurysm. She was 83 years old. According to the medical literature, she really did not fit the profile. But there was a family history and personal history of Cardiovascular disease and she had a remote history of smoking for a number of years. Many of you that know how I think about the medical literature know that I question a lot of the literature and for sure we know that the majority of medical literature, especially Cardiology, is more about male patients than female patients.

Mom underwent surgery for repair of the dissecting thoracic aortic aneurysm. This by itself is a massive procedure and is one of the most complex surgeries performed. While she survived the surgery, she did not recover and subsequently passed away.

This was not expected; neither the aneurysm nor the dissection resulting in her death. It was a traumatic experience and series of events that we had to navigate with my mom for eight intense days. They were not easy days and my mom did suffer. That was the most difficult thing to watch ever.

I was encouraged by trusted others in my family to try and not be a physician but to be just a daughter. I responded, are you just a daughter and not a mother? One thing I know for sure, there is no way I can separate myself from being a physician. My vocation is a calling, it is not a career. Being a physician is in my bone marrow, in my spirit and in my soul. I am a healer, not just a medical professional.

All of the eight days, I spent at my mom’s bedside, day and night, leaving only to get some better rest and a shower and some meals. We had to advocate strongly for her wishes, for her care and for her choices. It was very difficult. It was traumatic for her and for us as a family.

At the time of her passing, she was very peaceful. She had unconditional love for each of her three children and thanked us for taking good care of her. My heart was broken open on so many levels. The trauma she endured, the challenges of the health system we were in and the ending of her life here on earth.

I am beyond numb. I am in acute grief and mourning. And I have been away from the office for over two weeks. I understand that each of you as patients trust and lean on myself and my staff for your medical care. You can do that still, however, I also ask for patience and understanding as I have slowed my pace so that I can be in the office daily but just not at the pace that I had been going.

Mostly, I believe everybody will understand. Some however may feel, *well if you’re not up to the task*…

I am up to the task, and I am going slower and I am making choices to take good care of myself. I am sleeping, exercising, meditating and resting each day, allowing myself time, space and grace. I am practicing what I teach in my practice of medicine. I am exhibiting good self-care and compassion. I am being gentle with myself.

My staff held down the fort while I was away. I thank them. I thank you my patients as well. For your patience with me and my staff as we return to work and attend to your needs.

You see, my practice is a unique practice, not a big box where we just shove people through. We actually care about patients and not just their files or payments. We use the latest technology and mind body approaches to your care. In doing so, it requires a lot more work on our end to provide a holistic and integrative experience and care. It requires a lot more brain power, presence and thoroughness to provide the in-depth approaches to your medical needs.

So as the Spring has come, and we begin to experience the renewal of the season, let us each take time to apply good self-care principles:

• Listening to our quiet inner voice for guidance
• Sleeping well, eating well and exercising
• Having compassion for ourselves and empathy for others
• Being present in our lives each day because we choose to be

Be well ~ Dr. Louder