The Gift of Good Health

There are no guarantees when it comes to good health and adequate care, yet they are two of the easiest things to take for granted.

Maybe I am getting older? What I mean is that getting older makes you notice changes in your perspective on life as much as it ages you physically. And all it takes is a holiday tradition like gift giving to make you realize just how much your perspective really can change over time.

I now find myself in disbelief at what this holiday season has become for so many people. The commercialization of this time of year is inevitable. From car commercials to door-buster sales, materialism seems to be the highlight now instead of a side bar to the real meaning of the holidays. And the focus is always on the products and not the thought behind the giving. We’re all caught up in a game of spending and exchanging things instead of focusing on what’s really important.

But there is one gift I will likely receive (hopefully) next Sunday as I wake up on Christmas morning that won’t come from Santa or a loved one at the family gathering. There will be no box or bow, but I will enjoy it none the less. It will be the gift of good health. And that is a great gift to receive, even if it doesn’t come in a designer box or bag.

Given recent events in my life I’ve realized that the gift of life and good health is nothing to ignore. And as a pharmacist, you see families dealing with pain, suffering, and disease all the time at work. It almost makes you numb to the realities those people can face. You forget to take some time to be thankful for your own health and well being.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived a relatively healthy life. And yes, I’m not old enough to even expect most of the common ailments and problems that all of us can face in our lifetimes. But I’ve realized that good health is something to appreciate no matter how old you might be. It’s a gift and a nice one at that.

At work you can see the ravages of cancer or arthritis or a stroke or whatever else a patient may be dealing with in their lives. Or it may be a family member in the store picking up something for someone else in pain. And at that point I realize that life is fragile and that good health is not guaranteed to anyone among us. Yet it is one of the easiest things to take for granted or even forget completely. Why is that?

I know I will probably see patients at work this week that will be dealing with a new diagnosis or health problem. These people might have a loved one who has just been diagnosed with something troubling or stressful like cancer. And as healthcare providers, we can only do our jobs and hope for the best for our patients. We can be drug experts that help patients but we can’t magically make everyone better and healthy this holiday season.

As a pharmacist I know I can’t make everything OK for everyone so they can enjoy the holidays like I can. Our role in the fates of others is limited by nature. But we can try to do our best at what we do and maybe even prevent an error or two. Someone may avoid suffering an adverse event or complication related to their medication therapy because of the intervention of a pharmacist. And having that knowledge and ability to intervene in a very special way is another gift in itself.

If there is one thing this job has taught me over the years, it’s that life and good health can be fleeting. The only thing you can be sure of in life is that you just don’t know what is going to happen to you and those around you. The only other inevitability is death. And those uncertainties lead me to believe I should be thankful I’m well enough to exchange gifts with my family this year rather than focus on what those gifts might be. I’m not going to let the holiday season stress me out this year as much.

So yes, I will be exchanging gifts with family and friends this holiday season just like so many others. And it will be lots of fun to open those presents and watch others do the same. But in the end I’ll be thankful for one very special gift this year. I’ll be thankful for the gift of good health.

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