Exploring the Heart of Justice

Families and businesses are having to make hard choices, choices in which fairness is important but may be difficult to achieve. I was listening to a podcast last week that addressed this issue as a matter of justice, which I think is an interesting way to look at it.

It’s almost like we’re experiencing two pandemics; the medical one that’s causing illness, suffering and death due to a ravaging disease and the economic one causing financial hardship, food insecurity, and job loss due to a devastated economy.

Families and businesses are having to make hard choices, choices in which fairness is important but may be difficult to achieve. I was listening to a podcast last week that addressed this issue as a matter of justice, which I think is an interesting way to look at it.

What is justice?

In the podcast, Dr. Celine Grounder interviewed Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor. She asked him what makes for a good leader in the kind of crisis we’re experiencing now. He replied the best companies and their leaders base decisions on justice and he described 3 types of justice.

  • distributive justice- making choices that lead to fair outcomes
  • procedural justice-making decisions through a fair and unbiased process
  • interpersonal justice-making decisions in a way that treats people with respect, dignity, and compassion
What is Biblical justice?

This idea caught my attention because I made an interesting discovery recently. I’ve been reading the part of the Bible known as the Sermon on the Mount and written some posts about it. It’s in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, and has some of the most well known passages from the Bible, some you may not realize are biblical. Have you ever heard these phrases? They’re all from the Sermon.

  • eye for an eye
  • turn the other cheek
  • go the extra mile
  • the Golden Rule
  • pearls before swine

The Sermon is attributed to Jesus and may not have been a single sermon; the lessons it teaches may have been given at different times, as it is in the book of Luke, which contains some of the same messages. In it Jesus taught his followers how they should live their lives and one word he uses several times is “righteousness”.

Righteousness has a rather serious, religious sound to it, suggesting bound by strict laws, rule keeping, striving for perfection. As Richard Foster wrote, righteousness can consist of “control over externals, often including the manipulation of others.” (from Celebration of Discipline )

So I was surprised that one version, the New Living Translation (NLT), uses a different word for righteousness-justice.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6, NLT
a ceramic cross with the Beatitudes Matthew 5:3-10

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6, NIV

Several other Bible verses suggest righteousness and justice are two aspects of the same concept.

  • The Lord loves righteousness and justice;the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5, NIV
  • The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalm 103:6, NIV
  •  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!   Amos 5:24, NIV

Reflecting on these and other scriptures in I Am With You author Ann Spangler wrote this

“Righteousness is a Biblical word that means being in a right relationship with God, and with others. Injustice fractures and destroys relationships….righteousness is

“primarily a relationship, never an attainment; a direction, a loyalty, a commitment, a hope-and only someday an arrival” (quoting Addison Leitch)

Practicing justice

Farther in the Sermon Jesus tells the people to

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:33, NLT

suggesting that living justly isn’t merely a nice concept to think about, but something we should do, perhaps like the interpersonal justice Mr. Grant describes in the podcast.

Reverend Erin Clifford explains both Old and New Testament Biblical justice in this short video.

social graphic from the LIGHTSTOCK.COM collection, an affiliate site

some other thoughts on the Sermon

Matthew 5:6 is from part of the Sermon known as the Beatitudes. learn more about it here

How to be blessed, happy, and healthy

And in the rest of the Sermon, Jesus goes on to describe some other criteria for living a righteous or just life. I’ll explore that further in another post.

Here is a link to the podcast if you’d like to listen to it .

EPIDEMIC- Good and Bad Bosses

“EPIDEMIC is a twice-weekly podcast on public health and the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19).  Hosted by Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who has worked on tuberculosis and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and was an Ebola worker during the West African epidemic. And co-hosted by Ron Klain, the U.S. Ebola czar from 2014 to 2015.”

The COVID-19 pandemic may well be the defining moment of our times. Our lives have changed irrevocably. We need to understand the science so we can care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we need voices of reason to help us make sense of it all.

EPIDEMIC

In this episode, Dr. Celine Gounder talks to Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss

  • work during a pandemic and which companies are taking considerations to continue to take care of their employees, and which companies aren’t.
  • what good leadership during a crisis really looks like, and whether the COVID-19 pandemic may change the kinds of benefits that employers offer their employees.
  • how companies can improve their work-from-home culture, as well as how the pandemic may change people’s work-life/home-life balance permanently. 

exploring the HEART of justice

Thanks for joining me to explore justice from a social and Biblical perspective. I plan to share some other thoughts on this since it is so vital to working through the health and economic crisis we are facing.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Walk to reach your fitness goals

But in life I think if we “climb on our goals”, we’ll be more likely to reach them.

We’re all struggling to cope with the stress of upended lives, risk of a new and menacing illness, economic instability, and an unpredictable future. Most of us are actively pursuing ways to take care of our bodies and minds so the stress doesn’t overwhelm us.

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that physical activity is one key way to do that.

Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside in an area that makes it easy to maintain distance from people — such as a nature trail or your own backyard.


I’ve had to adjust my activity routine since my dance studio is closed, as well as the recreation center, that I had just joined prior to the physical distancing protocol started. I already liked to walk, so I have increased that to almost daily. I have a treadmill that I can use when the weather is not so nice, but I prefer to walk outside.

So in this post I’m going to share some photos from my walking journeys with reminders about the benefits of walking.

a walking trail at a park, sign advised social distancing
Multiple signs at the park reminded us to stay 6 feet apart, and everyone did.
Walking-maybe the best form of exercise

The best type of exercise is one that you will do on a regular basis. Walking is considered one of the best choices because it’s easy, safe, and inexpensive.

Brisk walking can burn as many calories as running, but it is less likely to cause injuries than running or jogging. Walking doesn’t require training or special equipment, except for appropriate shoes.

feet in walking shoes, crossed on a bench
I like Skechers for walking but other brands are probably just as good, just choose one that fits well and is comfortable; wear good socks to, to help prevent blisters.

Walking is an aerobic and weight-bearing exercise, so it is good for your heart and helps prevent osteoporosis.

Read more about taking care of your heart at this previous post.

7 Keys to a Healthy Heart

Seniors age 65 and older should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) every week. That averages out to about 30 minutes on most days of the week. 

a bright blue wood rocking chair on a porch
Yes, I meet the requirement to be called a “senior”. Remember in high school,when that was a good thing? This rocker looked inviting but I kept walking.

Low-impact activities such as walking, biking, or swimming generally go easy on your joints.

handlebars of a bicycle, and iris flowers
Dr Aletha in her bicycle helmet

One day I biked instead of walked; a little harder to take photos though.

Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Park the car farther away at work or stores.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Walk to do errands.
a USPS truck parked on a street
The mail carrier was also out walking, part of his daily routine for sure.

Get going and keep going

Everyone can benefit from physical activity. For most people, it is possible to begin exercising on your own at a slow pace. If you have never exercised before, start with a 10-minute period of light exercise. A brisk walk every day is a good first exercise. Slowly increase how hard you exercise and for how long.

  • You can walk outdoors, at home on a treadmill, alone, or with friends and family.
  • Make it fun. Listen to music or books on tape while you walk or jog. Watch TV or a video while you exercise.
a geometric cat chalked on a sidewalk
chalk rainbow drawn on a sidewalk
a tiger face drawn with chalk on a sidewalk
The heart of walking

Aerobic exercise causes you to breathe more deeply. It makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Aerobic exercise also raises your heart rate (which burns calories). Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, dancing, swimming, and bicycling.

a bush with bright red blooms, shaped like a heart
I posted this photo on Facebook and someone commented that it is shaped like a heart. What do you think?
Keep your distance

Honor social distancing guidelines
recommended by public health officials
to stop or slow down the spread of
contagious diseases. If you are running, walking or
hiking outside, try to do so in a location
that is not crowded. If you encounter
others while out exercising, maintain six
feet distance.

a sign says"never climb on goals"

This sign was on the fence at a soccer field where it’s good advice. But in life I think if we “climb on our goals”, we’ll be more likely to reach them. Sometimes “goals” do fall over, hopefully not causing serious injury or death, but often disappointment and discouragement. If your goals fail, climb back up and try again. Just not on the soccer field please.

Visit FamilyDoctor.org

The fitness advice in this post was taken from FamilyDoctor.org, the patient information site sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians, of which I am a member. Please visit the site for more advice about exercise, fitness, and other health concerns , including coronavirus disease. (I have no financial interest in the site.)

exploring the HEART of fitness by walking

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Two Words That Still Change My Life

When I watched the war in Vietnam on TV news, I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

This is one of my most viewed posts, maybe because I have shared it so many times. Every time I share it, I hear from someone, usually unexpected, who tells me the story speaks to them in a similar way.

  • A couple I’ve never met in Australia
  • A long ago friend I had not talked to since we were teenagers
  • A young mother who was a former work colleague.
  • One of my best childhood friends

I didn’t know  any of their stories before, but learning we share a similar bond brought new meaning to our relationship.

If you are someone who shares a story similar to ours, I hope you will contact me. My husband and I would love to join our hearts to yours wherever you are. Perhaps these words will change your life.

a couple sitting at a table by a window with an ocean view

Here is the post, originally called

Two Words That Changed My Life

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

To be fair, I ended the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although the breakup was best of us both, I grieved  the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending the university.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset . I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I wonder why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

Two more words

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He had served for three years in the Army . He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base
various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting them, which they and their families  dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet  or social media then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

Today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes . Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; far too often those who served in Vietnam did not. 

library interior
The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

Over dates at  football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, traveled, attended church.

Expectation-“happily ever after”

But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We could not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain
one of many family ski trips

 

 

 

Words that changed our lives- post-traumatic stress disorder

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband didn’t talk about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize and honor Vietnam veterans’ service and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

army veteran standing next to a floral bouquet at a memorial
We always visit the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall when it comes to our area.

 

 

 

 

Words that changed Raymond’s life

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and started to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought and prayer, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.

affiliate link

He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM,  a faith-based non-profit organization whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.

By touring the country and meeting Vietnamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing
Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips  serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM.  He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years learning and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.

Raymond found “reconciliation”  for himself and we experienced it in our marriage.  It was a process and still is.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself

through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

1 Corinthians 5:18, motto of VWAM
man next to concrete bunker
visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

 

More words that changed my life

As  a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. This and other books sparked an interest in  health care and I decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did.

I didn’t remember anything  about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. Now deceased, he served  as a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would  help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

man and lady dressed in dance costumes
And I never expected us to do a ballroom dance routine for an audience!

 

 

 

Words that may change your life

 

Raymond researched and wrote about a little known battle of the Vietnam war. His is an eyewitness account of the events and aftermath of the Battle for TraBong. It is available as an eBook for Kindle apps from Amazon. The following is an excerpt.

Battle for Tra Bong Vietnam: Events and Aftermath

Fire Support Base (FSB)/Landing Zone (LZ) Cindy was established in 1968 by being relocated from Tam Ky, Vietnam. By 1970, the FSB was considered a “model” for other FSBs in South Vietnam.

The base operated on the high ground of the Happy Valley with an Observation Post (OP) Searchlight (SLT) unit that provided illumination at night for the entire valley. Next to the FSB was an Armed Forces Vietnam (ARVN) unit of 100 men. Besides the helicopter landing zone, we had the shortest airstrip in Vietnam managed by a Military Air Command Vietnam (MACV) unit. The Tra Bong village was between MACV and FSB/LZ Cindy.

The firebase had tremendous firepower with automatic weapons, 50-caliber and 60-caliber machine guns to include a Quad 50, Dusters, 8 inch and 175 howitzers, mortars, grenades, claymores, flares, etc. In the year 1970, FSB Cindy had zero Wounded in Action (WIA) or Killed in Action (KIA) men by enemy forces. Also, the North Vietnamese (NVA) did not penetrate our perimeter because our unit operated as a team.

A Battery remained at FSB/LZ Cindy (BS342882) providing general support to both US and ARVN units. On 16 September 1971, A Battery was moved to Chu Lai to begin stand down activities.

During Christmas of 1971, the ARVN camp was overrun by NVA/VC and wiped out.

The firebase did have a major battle in September 1970. That battle and how it impacted the war in general and one soldier’s life specifically is the subject of this book.

We who served on LZ Cindy in 1969 and after when the unit left in 1971 did a job that had to be done to save more lives than were taken by the enemy. All of us were there because we were asked or drafted to serve this country and help the people of Vietnam survive.

Those of us who did the job on LZ Cindy did the best we could to survive and help those who served with us. It is unfortunate that some of those did not survive, but in war people die, and there is nothing we can do about it.

 

 

We also recommend Robert Seiple’s book-

 

A Missing Peace: Vietnam : Finally Healing the Pain 

by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis

“The gripping account of the author’s experiences with “a war without closure” as a Marine aviator and as head of a relief agency ministering in that country. Through his own search for personal and national reconciliation, he shows us the only way to find real closure and genuine healing.”

(Amazon review)(This is an affiliate link.)

 

 

 

 

 sharing the HEART of marriage

Thanks for taking the time to read our story, we are honored you did. If you know someone who might benefit from reading it also, please share by email or social media.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

Dr. Aletha and Raymond

What more doctor bloggers are writing about COVID-19

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons we are learning from this pandemic is our need for social connection and community. Perhaps we can ask ourselves, what does it mean to build real community in care communities?

I’ve been reading what some other physician bloggers are writing about the COVID-19 pandemic. Here I share some of them with you. While I believe they are all reliable and honest sources of information, my sharing does not imply endorsement,complete agreement, or advice. This is a topic in which information changes daily if not more often, so all information is subject to change. Always consult the CDC and your state and local health departments for the most recent information that pertains to you.

What to do if you think you have COVID-19

Dr. Linda, a family doctor, explains what to do and what not to do if you think you have caught the coronavirus.

Don’t Panic. The majority of patients will get better without any treatment. I’ve seen many patients, even among those with no symptoms, with very high levels of anxiety. When we turn on the TV these days, it’s all about COVID-19. Remember that the news always shows the worst case scenarios. If watching it makes you more fearful, switch it off. You still need to get updates but limit your exposure to all the negativity aimed at you. Maybe, just check your state’s department of health sites to know what you need to be aware of.

Don’t Go to the ER Because You Think You Have COVID-19/

EMERGENCY-sign
Photo by Pixabay
A COVID-19 Overview

Dr. Andrew Weil, well known as an integrative medicine proponent, wrote this overview of what we know about the coronavirus. He also offers his recommendations for vitamins and supplements that might be safe to take during the pandemic (although not known to prevent or treat the infection) and what substances you should avoid. I reviewed one of Dr. Weil’s books at this link.

Dr. Weil considers the following natural immune stimulating and antiviral agents as likely safe to take before and during a COVID-19 virus infection. However, we don’t know for sure whether any of them will affect the symptoms or severity of the infection.

COVID-19: What You Should Know About Coronavirus

illustration showing the coronavirus which causes COVID-19
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Changing our view of nursing homes

Sonja Barsness is not a physician but she wrote a guest post for Dr. Bill Thomas’ blog, Changing Aging.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons we are learning from this pandemic is our need for social connection and community. Perhaps we can ask ourselves, what does it mean to build real community in care communities?

Covid and Culture Change

If you are depressed and thinking about or planning suicide, please stop and call this number now-1-800-273-8255

cover photo

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working 24/7 to provide updates.

credit: CDC/James Gathany-public domain

exploring the HEART of health in a pandemic

I shared other COVID-19 blogs in another post . I hope you check out other posts from these physician bloggers.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Elizabeth Barrett-marriage, motherhood, and mission

Elizabeth suffered from illness and disability during much of her life, which didn’t stop her from using her creativity to write prolifically. She became an activist for social causes, using her writing to fight the oppression of women, child labor, and slavery.

After reading Elizabeth Barrett’Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months, Robert Browning met her in 1845. Despite opposition from her father, they eloped in 1846. Her father never spoke to her again.

Prior to her marriage Elizabeth had already established a reputation as a poet; although not published until years later, she wrote her well known and beloved collection of poems, SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE, in response to Robert’s ardent courtship.

“I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.”

Sonnet XLIII

Elizabeth read the Bible in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek, and developed a passionate Christian faith; she was active in her church.

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The couple moved from England to Florence, Italy, where they continued to write. They had a son, Robert “Pen” Browning, in 1849, the same year Robert’s COLLECTED POEMS was published.

Elizabeth inspired Robert’s collection of poems Men and Women (1855), which he dedicated to her.

“Now regarded as one of Browning’s best works, the book was received with little notice at the time; its author was then primarily known as Elizabeth Barrett’s husband.” (quote from poets.org)

motherhood; all love begins and ends there. Robert Browning

Elizabeth suffered from illness and disability during much of her life, which didn’t stop her from using her creativity to write prolifically. She became an activist for social causes, using her writing to fight the oppression of women, child labor, and slavery.

“I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.”

Sonnet XLIII

exploring the HEART of literature and love

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Bookshop.org– exploring the HEART of books

Questions you must ask your doctor before and after care

You can master medical terminology . How many new things have you learned in the past 5 years? Each of those had a vocabulary and instructions that you learned and now use regularly. Think of your first computer, smartphone, tablet, digital camera, or even a coffee maker . You make the effort to learn what is important to you .

In another post I discussed the importance of establishing a connection between doctors and patients before trying to communicate. The goal is to establish effective patient engagement. You might want to read it now, but this post will make sense even if you don’t; you can always read it later. (The current post was previously published as part 2)

3 keys to effective communication with your doctor

Now we’re going to look at some practical aspects of exchanging information with doctors- remember, exchange means give something and receive something  in return. 

Doctors want to give patients the information they need and most of the time believe they have done so. We are surprised when patients come back and say we didn’t explain their problem and its treatment, or they didn’t understand what we told them about it. I think this happens for 2 reasons.

  • We doctors tell patients what we think is important, but it may not be what you the patient or family considers most important.
  • After patients hear part of what we say, they get saturated and don’t hear the rest, especially when it is emotionally charged.

That’s why it is so important for patients and families to ask questions; don’t just rely on what the doctors volunteer. What is important to them may not be what is most important to you. And the more specific questions you ask, the more detailed the information you receive will be.

one question you should always ask at each visit

“What is the most important problem today, and what is the next step in treating it?”

The most important problem that the doctor finds may not be the one you were admitted for or came to the office for. Or if you came with multiple problems, the most important may not be the one that seemed most urgent to you.

and the answer you need to know at each doctor visit

For example, you may go to an emergency facility for an injury that caused a large gash on your leg, one that needs stitches. This is an urgent problem that needs to be treated. But the doctor finds that you have high blood pressure that you didn’t know about.

High blood pressure can lead to heart failure and stroke  if left untreated. So the doctor is going to instruct you to see your primary care doctor to have this problem addressed. In terms of your long term health, the high blood pressure is your most important problem today.

Sometimes these unexpected problems can get lost if you and the doctor only communicate about the urgent problem and what happens next with it.

It is important to control blood pressure
High blood pressure can cause a heart attack.
questions, questions, questions

You will get more helpful information from your doctor if your questions are as specific as you can ask; always inquire about how tests and procedures this will affect your treatment and recovery. Here are some examples-

  • What did the xray show and what does mean for my problem?
  • What was blood test result and will it change my treatment?
  • How will this procedure change my condition?
  • What needs to happen before we move to the next step?

Write important things down. Questions that you want to ask. Information that the doctors need. Answers to the questions. Refer to it each time you speak with the doctors.

It doesn’t end when you are discharged

When you or a loved one is in the hospital, your main concern is going home. When the time comes to be discharged, it is just as important to ask questions and understand the plan as during the illness. Too many times I have had patients return to my office after a hospital stay  unable to give me any information about their illness and care . Important information to know include

  • What problems were treated during this admission and how did they change?
  • What will we need to do at home to continue the recovery?
  • When do we need to see a doctor and which doctor do we see?
  • What medications will I need to be on when I go home?
Understanding your doctor– medical jargon may not be the problem

Doctors are being encouraged and taught to use “plain language” when talking to patients, meaning limiting the use of medical jargon. I agree that a string of highly technical terms of any kind makes communication harder. But I’m not sure that simply using plain words solves the problem either. Whatever terms you use to exchange information must be understood by both persons. And that is not always the case.

Here’s an example.

If a doctor says that you or a relative has had a Myocardial infarction , do you know that that means a Heart attack? 

But, do you know exactly what heart attack means? Probably not.

What causes heart disease?
A heart attack means the heart muscle is injured from too little oxygen reaching it, usually due to blockage in the arteries.

So,  if the doctor says “heart attack” without adding any additional information, you should ask

  • “I understand a heart attack to mean ________. Is this correct?”
  • “I do not understand what a heart attack is. Please explain.”
Learning the language

You can master medical  terminology . How many new things have you learned in the past 5 years? Each of those had a vocabulary and instructions that you learned and now use regularly. Think of your first computer, smartphone, tablet, digital camera, or even a coffee maker . You make the effort to learn what is important to you . 

Make an attempt to learn about your and your family’s medical issues; even if you don’t understand it completely, your doctor will appreciate that you are trying.

In addition to  doctors you have nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, physical therapists, social workers who can answer questions. Ask for referrals to community resources.

There are helpful resources on the Internet so anyone with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone has access to medical information anywhere anytime.

Learn the basics of medical terminology here-

Understanding Medical Words: A Tutorial from the National Library of Medicine

Find the meaning of medical words and terms here

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia

rhinoceros
It’s easy to remember that “rhino” refers to the nose, as in rhinosinusitis.

Also on this topic, my previous  post

How to tell your doctor what’s wrong with you 

exploring the HEART of communication

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

What doctor bloggers are writing about COVID-19

In these times, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the negative things happening around us. But it is crucial to take time to recognize the other side: positive stories of healing and connection, acts of kindness, and, most importantly, reminders of our resilience.

I’ve been reading what some other physician bloggers are writing about the COVID-19 pandemic. Here I share some of them with you. While I believe they are all reliable and honest sources of information, my sharing does not imply endorsement,complete agreement, or advice. This is a topic in which information changes daily if not more often, so all information is subject to change. Always consult the CDC and your state and local health departments for the most recent information that pertains to you.

How to test for COVID-19

Pediatrician Dr Jaime Friedman explains how the different tests for coronavirus-2 infection work.

Anyone who receives an antibody test would need to review the results with their doctor. People with positive results or someone who had symptoms but has a negative antibody test may still need a PCR test to confirm infection. Only time will tell if a positive antibody test infers long lasting immunity.

Testing for COVID-19:What does it mean?

using a syringe to obtain blood specimen from an individual
Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom on Pexels.com
Understanding Sweden

A Country Doctor, Dr. Hans Duvefelt, grew up in Sweden but has practiced primary care in the United States for 40 years. He shared this and other quotes about Sweden’s response to the pandemic.

Swedish authorities believe that it is enough to make recommendations such as staying inside if you feel ill and avoid large crowds. “Use your brains”…. Classic Swedish freedom and responsibility in other words. May also be called common knowledge, common sense or sense of duty.

A Country Doctor Reads: Why Sweden isn’t Restricting Personal Freedom During the Covid-19 Pandemic – Svenska Dagbladet

water ship sailboat stockholm
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Cultivating resilience

I’m seeing the word “resilience” used often since the pandemic started. Psychiatrist Dr. Melissa Welby offers practical suggestions to avoid anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by cultivating resilience.

In these times, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the negative things happening around us. But it is crucial to take time to recognize the other side: positive stories of healing and connection, acts of kindness, and, most importantly, reminders of our resilience.

Resilience During COVID 19: Managing the Stress of Coronavirus and Finding Inspiration in a Time of Crises

MANAGE ANXIETY-DON'T BE AFRAID-BE SMART

If you are depressed and thinking about or planning suicide, please stop and call this number now-1-800-273-8255

exploring the HEART of health in a pandemic

I’ll share some more COVID-19 blogs in another post soon. I hope you check out other posts from these physician bloggers.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

2 bandaids crossed on a world globe
photo from the Lightstock collection (affiliate link)

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