Last Wednesday, Ruth, my wife, business partner, and best friend for forty-five years, were walking to our office. As we started up the same set of stairs we climb every day, Ruth suddenly felt weak and short of breath. She was smart enough to instantly take herself to the doctor who has been treating her for high blood pressure. The doctor was smart enough to instantly arrange an emergency check-in at Keiyu Hospital in Minato-Mirai 21, the Yokohama harbor project district only minutes by cab from both our home and the doctor’s office. She was met at the door by a wheelchair, run through a battery of tests, diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, and popped into a bed with supplementary oxygen and a heparin drip in her arm. The good news is that when I left her last night, she had had her first not-me visitors. She had a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face. She appears to be out of danger and recovering rapidly. So now I find myself reflecting once again on the privileged lives that Ruth and I lead and the difference it can make when bad stuff happens.
What if we hadn’t been living in an affluent neighborhood close to the center of one of the world’s great cities?
What if Ruth hadn’t been the patient of a cardiovascular specialist connected with one of the city’s best hospitals?
What if we weren’t living in a country where public health insurance will cover most of the medical expenses?
What if we didn’t have the Internet and Facebook, where a host of friends from all over the world have rallied round, including my best friend from high school, an M.D. with the Public Health Service, who has provided reassuring advice — the treatment Ruth is receiving is exactly the one she should be receiving.
What if we hadn’t been able to afford the mobile WiFi router that lets her FB message and Skype with the daughter and grandkids in the USA via her iPad Mini? What if those gadgets didn’t even exist?
I can’t help thinking, Yes, bad things can happen to good people, but privilege can certainly ease the pain.