Monday, June 26, 2000

Family, the best medicine

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A wonder drug sits in every hospital's waiting room. It can make miracles happen and it's available without a prescription.

        Ask for it by the brand name: family.

        Family members visit with a loved one just before surgery. Their words of encouragement and gifts of love help the patient recover. Family is good medicine.

        One month ago, I witnessed a family's healing touch while filling a seat in the same-day surgery waiting room of Bethesda North Hospital.

        My wife was on the operating table at the time. Earlier in the day she slipped on some dew-slicked grass and broke her right ankle. Some people will do anything to get out of yard work.

        In a failed attempt to keep from worrying, I tried leafing through the waiting room's well-aged magazines.

        Frustrated, I started to eavesdrop. My choices were limited.

        The waiting room was nearly deserted. Just one eavesdropper and five King brothers.

        Jack, Mike, Roger, Steve and Tim King were into their 12th hour of waiting. Their 73-year-old mother, Jean King, was in for heart bypass surgery. Her sons kept waiting. And waiting.

No drop-offs
        As the brothers talked quietly among themselves, I thought back to what a nurse said when I brought my wife to the hospital. The nurse asked if I was going to stick around for the operation.

        “I'm dumping her by the curb,” I joked. “Must get back to work.”

        The nurse smiled and said, “You'd be surprised how many people do just that.”

        The drop-off patients are suddenly alone. No loved ones are around to help keep them calm. No one is there to give them a kiss or even a thumbs up before they are wheeled into the operating room.

        Jean King was lucky. Her five sons saw her at the hospital before she went into surgery. They came from Okeana, West Chester and Forest Park.

        Each one arrived before her 7:30 a.m. date with the surgeon. Each one kissed her, told her he loved her and said a silent prayer.

        “We made it a point to be here,” said Jack, the eldest brother. He's employed by Springdale's Public Works Department. As with his other brothers, work did not matter that day. They had to be there for their mom.

        “It was the first time in a year all five of us were together,” Jack added.

        “We wanted her to know she succeeded in her role in life. She raised five boys who love her and love each other.

        “She needed to feel good and positive. An operation is an ordeal. You need to feel good about yourself, feel loved before you get cut on.”

Doctor's orders
        Seeking a second opinion on Jack King's recommended treatment, I called on Dr. John Tew. The noted neurosurgeon and chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Cincinnati's Medical Center concurred.

        “People hold on, people heal faster when they feel wanted,” Dr. Tew said. “People die all the time when they have nothing to live for.

        “I won't operate unless family members are present. A patient needs someone by their side.”

        Dr. Tew always asks the family to pray. If members are not religious and won't pray for the patient, “I ask them to at least pray for the doctor.”

        The five King brothers' prayers were answered. Jean King came home Thursday.

        She received the best medicine: her family's love.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.