If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

The All Too Patient Patients

20130430-120758.jpgToday, I’m sitting in the waiting/reception area at my mom’s oncologist/hematologist’s office. Mom has been coming here weekly for about five years for iron infusions due to iron deficiency anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition that occurs if you don’t have enough iron in your body. Low iron levels usually are due to blood loss, poor diet, or an inability to absorb enough iron from food. Mom’s cause appears to be the latter.

Her weekly visits usually take 3+ hours. When I average three hours per visit over these past five years I find that mom has spent 32-1/2 days of her life in this doctor’s office. Her hematologist is just one of four specialists that she visits regularly and my husband and I are her transportation.

I remain amazed at the number of patients always waiting about three hours in a crowded waiting room, usually to get their labs, infusions, chemo therapies, and then visit with one of several rotating doctors. Mom’s visit with the doc, lab work, and infusion actually lasts about 35 minutes in real time!

20130430-120315.jpgMy frustration and sadness is for the many patients who are usually elderly, have other medical, mental, and physical challenges besides the ones being treated here. To me, it feels like being lined up and herded like cattle into a pen awaiting branding one at a time–only this process is slower.

The staff is respectful enough, don’t get me wrong, but the appointments and procedures management confines these patients and their chauffeurs to a waiting room as life outside continues to pass them by.

Often when waiting, patients and caregivers discuss this situation among themselves. All agree that alternate care options with improved services aren’t available elsewhere locally. In fact, this particular practice has 10 locations in Maryland. Long term patients confirm that the waiting times have remained unchanged for many, many years. According to the National Cancer Society, an estimated 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2013. And, nearly 600 thousand cancer patients will die this year. That makes for a lot of sick and dying who need to make the best of their time for the best quality of life they can have for whatever time they have remaining. And, these facts turn my memory back to the great Jim Croce ballad:

Time in a Bottle

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend more time with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go
Through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go
Through time with.

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