Gradually, then suddenly
Garth Saunders
Our Readers' Opinions
January 28, 2022
Gradually, then suddenly

While I have often tended to keep my own counsel, a recent personal experience that landed me at the sometimes-unappreciated intersection of divinity and health care, brought home to me a few important realities that I thought I would share.

Almost three months ago, I was admitted to the emergency room of the Milton Cato memorial Hospital (MCMH) gasping for breath with my blood oxygen saturation level at 54%. Nine days later I was discharged from the male medical ward, having completed stints in the emergency room, the male medical ward the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

I was indeed taken to the brink and were it not for timely interventions of one of my personal physicians Dr. DeShong and the nurses and young doctors at A&E that afternoon, I certainly would have had a different outcome. I continue to give thanks for all the supplications and the medical professionals; from senior medics, nurses, technicians, attendants and those important persons consistently delivering cylinders of oxygen and wheeling me around for my tests; their divine and timely interventions made all the difference.

It didn’t seem to matter that I had been engaging regularly in four hours of cardiovascular exercise per week, somehow, an acute respiratory illness affecting both lungs was somehow visited upon me. How could this have happened, you might ask? How could a former athlete who exercised regularly, be suddenly faced with a life-threatening medical condition?

The answer came to me a few days later, upon reflection in the ICU. There I recalled an Ernest Hemingway line in ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and realized then and there, that what had happened to me had in fact taken place “gradually, then suddenly”. What I thought was a manageable situation quickly deteriorated into a life-threatening emergency.

For sure, there were signs and symptoms for months, but they unfortunately worsened at an insignificant rate, not enough to warrant monitoring, measurement or concern. Further, I saw myself as being healthy, or what I perceived to be healthy and being active was enough for me; I simply took my health for granted.

However, health and fitness suddenly and clearly distinguished themselves for me and I realized that I may have neglected some areas of my health despite being in reasonable shape. I also realized that health doesn’t look like or feel any one way and in the scheme of things, health was not my priority although fitness certainly was. Meetings, work and deliverables assumed top priority and unfortunately, the markers I had been using to determine my health were not painting the complete picture.

It is so easy when you are driven to let milestones, achievements and results be the center of one’s existence and the situation can become even more dire when you think you are smart enough, as I clearly thought I was, and can convince yourself that symptoms aren’t significant and will somehow go away on their own. Interestingly, I was advised that while fitness and conditioning may well have aided in my quick recovery, they both could have also masked the seriousness of the symptoms and the rate of deterioration.

I now reflect on all the many areas of life, health and existence that are currently happening gradually, en route to a sudden outcome. While I would never advocate a life of constant monitoring and worry, it may well be beneficial to identify a few critical areas of both life and work that can be monitored and managed with some care, in order that a few sudden and unwanted outcomes can be precluded.

by G. E. M. Saunders