How Much Is A Human Life Worth?
I was reading my own blog the other day, and I was struck by the absence of something. I hear that the writer is suffering a complex of painful symptoms caused by an unnecessary surgery and that the blog is also a protest about faults in the medical system. Detaching myself from the writing, I can easily imagine the writer airing her grievances over lunch with a friend.
Or is it just me? Because the writer is me?
I don’t see the rumpled bed I lie in day after day. I don’t feel the loneliness and isolation. I don’t grasp the shrieking exhaustion, the pain and confusion of facial bones and teeth displaced and a nose disintegrating. I don’t smell the necrosis. I don’t feel the heat and humidity and hopelessness.
I am acutely aware of my separateness from the mainstream today because recently I joined a women’s group. As I listened to each of the women sharing a bit of her life, I sensed the line of demarcation separating me from a normal life. There are no graduations, vacations, plays, musical events, retreats, get-togethers, or plans in my life. None of that “summer is so busy, you know.” I know. It means I have to keep getting up to close the window when another lawn mower starts up. The vicarious normality was a breath of fresh air. But now, I am more acutely aware of my isolation.
I am not sure who reads my blog. I know some of my readers have Empty Nose Syndrome. Some may be doctors. And some may be ENT’s. For these, I want to move the focus of the conversation away from a clinical viewpoint and onto the patient. A botched nasal surgery is not just a matter of dryness, paradoxical obstruction, overly patent airways, and missing turbinate tissue. Many doctors seem not to grasp the scope of disability caused by these physical indicators. A botched nasal surgery is also a matter of missing friends, family and life. It is a loss of pleasure, of activity, of engagement in life. It is a loss of everything human beings cherish: health, happiness, friendship, work, leisure, creativity and love.
In the past two and a half years, I have missed opportunities to visit family in states I have never seen. I have missed a graduation and a wedding. I miss most holidays as I am too sick to do much but lay in bed. Family and friends have retreated from my life as there is so little I am able to do and to give. Potential love interests beat an even quicker retreat once they hear about my life. I have even lost the pleasure of my own company which once was a feast of good books, healthy food, meditation and nature. Not even curling up in bed is a guilty pleasure. There is no pleasure. There is only pain.
Aggressive and unnecessary nasal surgeries are not just medical failures. They are living deaths to their victims. I have often said it would have been a blessing if I had died on the operating table. Any ENT who performs turbinate reductions or other aggressive nasal and sinus surgeries routinely sees the results in his or her office as well. We are not just a parade of damaged noses. We are a parade of damaged lives. It reaches beyond comprehension that doctors who have once brought this devastation, fear not to bring it again.
How much is a human life worth? Surely it is worth more than the fee for a turbinate reduction.