Moses in the Midwest
“In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.”
-Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020)
Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom, begins this year on Wednesday evening, April 5th. We gather for the yearly retelling of the Exodus story at Seder- the Jewish Hero’s Journey from Egypt to Israel led by Moses. Through my practice as an Emergency Medicine physician, my shifts are often filled with staff acting as a “local Moses” helping patients on a personal Exodus to better health. One recent story sticks out.
Jane is a mid-70s female with anxiety, depression and hypertension who came to triage complaining of foot pain. The night before was cold; Jane is homeless, an alarming and growing trend for the elderly. The staff cared for her frostbite causing the foot pain. Jane’s acute medical condition was luckily minor but her social problems were major. Jane has no family. She had never married and had no children and is estranged from distant relatives. She had taught Sunday School at a local church which shut down years ago. She has no one to call on for help.
The overnight team let Jane sleep in the department, rather than sending her to a homeless shelter right after treatment, so our Case Manager in the morning could spend time learning more about Jane’s situation and provide resources. Case Managers are critical to Emergency Departments. They help solve mundane problems that too often plague patients- transportation problems, medication refill issues, lack of follow-up, homelessness-that land in the Emergency Department.
Deb, a seasoned and compassionate Case Manager, came on shift and went to work asking Jane questions about her life. She learned that Jane owned a condominium in the area, but the building had become a hub for gang activity. Jane had been threatened several times and felt unsafe at home. So she stopped going home. She used her Social Security money to stay in local hotels, and when the money ran out, Jane would hang out in local fast food restaurants until they closed. She would sleep on the street. The cycle repeated itself for months. Jane’s anxiety, depression and disconnection from a support system plagued her ability to find a way out.
Deb pressed for more information about Jane’s life. There had to be someone to help. Does she know a real estate agent that could help sell her condo? Jane recalled a young boy she taught in Sunday School. His mother was a real estate agent. Deb found the woman on the internet and called her. The agent remembered Jane because she had been so patient with her son, now grown, who struggled with ADHD. In fact, the agent had an extra room at her home and offered to house Jane while she helped sell her condo. The agent came to the Emergency Department to pick her up.
Deb received a DAISY Award at the hospital for this case. Our healthcare system is filled with people like Deb, helping patients leave their Egypts onto a path toward freedom. Sadly, divisive ideologies that have permeated the medical field are threatening to create an exodus of healthcare professionals. The next Deb very well could be dissuaded from entering the field upon realizing that adherence to orthodoxy has become more important than helping patients achieve the best health outcomes.
FAIR in Medicine is pushing back against this concerning trend by defending our covenant to treat patients as individuals and by standing up for practitioners like Deb who go the extra mile for their patients. The majority of healthcare professionals disagree with prioritizing ideology above our patients. I’m proud that FAIR in Medicine can help to support them in our efforts to restore a medical culture that focuses on individual patients not as ideological pawns but as unique human beings, which is so crucial to a healthcare system that works for everyone.
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