Even as someone who spends a lot of time paying attention to health-related news, it’s not always real to me the kind of devastating impact that poor health and injury can have on individuals and families. I can pity these people in the abstract without actually people able to place myself in a similar situation.
But everyone once in a while, it becomes real again.
Less than two weeks ago, my mother-in-law broke her hip. She was walking back to her office from her lunch break, turned her eyes away from where she was going, tripped on a curb and took a nasty fall. It took almost a week for the pain to get bad enough for her to go to the doctor who gave her the surprising diagnosis. A broken hip and she’s not even 60. Now she can’t walk without a walker. She can’t take care of herself at her own house without family members to help. She can’t drive to work.
The news of her mother’s surgery—only a couple of hours notice—sent my wife out of town to Hendersonville, N.C. to play the role of caretaker. And in a matter of days, my cozy home will be occupied by my temporarily crippled mother-in-law. Despite the inevitable inconveniences, I’m happy to help.
What jumps out at me in all of this is not only how fragile our health is, but also how lucky my family is to be so insulated from the worst of this. My mother-in-law has the flexibility to take a leave absence at her accounting firm—just days before the tax deadline. By no means will this won’t be easy for, and she’ll be working her ass off from her computer at my house, but she works for a company with paid leave. My wife has the flexibility to take off of work at a moment’s notice to take of her mother. This wasn’t easy for her either. Making up work has been an arduous undertaking. But all of this leaves me feeling very lucky that a family injury is not going to leave a family member in financial ruin.
My wife’s mom still has a long road to recovery: weeks and months of physical therapy and tons of work to make up. But she has the health insurance to cover it, the financial security to weather this and the family to support her. All of this good fortune, makes it a little easier to understand more concretely that not everyone around me has these resources.