Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sudden Death

The amazing privilege I've had as an acupuncturist working in Needham, MA for the past 10 years is the ability to follow my patients through long periods of their lives, through happy times such as the birth of a child and sad ones such as the passing of a parent.

As you can probably imagine, after practicing for so many years, I accumulated a lot of medical records and written charts.  With my husband, Changhong Zhou, joining the practice, we've had to make more room, shredding and discarding those records we are no longer legally obligated to retain.

Flipping through each chart to determine which ones we could shred, I could not help thinking that some of the people who had filled out these papers had already passed: patients with terminal cancer, patients already in their 90s when I saw them 10 years ago.  Some family members inform me through email, other deaths I hear about through word of mouth, but most of the time, it is impossible to know who, out of the thousands of people I had the chance to treat, still exists in this world.

To a certain extent, death is expected when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and in those cases, their loved ones have a little bit of time to prepare to say goodbye.  But what if the death is sudden?  Like a heart attack on the way to work or a freak car accident?

I am reminded of a former colleague and friend from my time as a doctor in Beijing.  About 10 years my senior, she was a kind and generous mentor who was well liked in our hospital.  I would even visit her on the few chances I've had to return to China after emigrating to the US.

Earlier this year, I was shocked to find out that she had passed away suddenly while trying to rise from her bed one morning before work.  For someone in her earlier 60s, she had been quite young-looking and fit.  To think that her heart would stop working so suddenly felt like nearly an impossible scenario.

In my latest video, I speculate on the possible reasons for my colleague's sudden death.  Perhaps the sore, scratchy throat she had pretty consistently for the last 30 years was indicative of underlying, low-level inflammation that made her more susceptible to sudden heart failure?

We will never be able to know for sure, but I think it serves as a valuable lesson for prioritizing the condition of our own body.  It is easy in the hectic pace of our lives to let the small problems slide for a later time.  This story serves as a reminder that no matter how busy we become, it is important to take care of ourselves and our bodies first.

For more videos and information about healthy living, check out my website, Boca Raton Acupuncture Clinic.

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