Receiving a grim diagnosis from the doctor can be devastating. Not only do the patients have to live with the pain and suffering wrought from their conditions, but they also have to deal with the possibility that they might not live long enough to fulfill their hopes and dreams. Parents who receive this news about their child face a similar ordeal. They wonder whether or not their child will live to see adulthood, let alone have a satisfying future.
It’s difficult not to despair during these situations. While modern medicine has advanced to the point where many people can survive illnesses that would have been fatal a century ago, doctors can do very little about diseases with no cure. Patients at this point must decide whether or not their lives are worth fighting for, which is why many people believe that having a strong mindset is one of the most important traits found in patients who manage to survive against all odds.
If you planning to enter the health care industry, whether through a medical assistant training program
or with a degree from medical school, then you may have to face the turmoil that comes from encountering patients with a devastating illness. Although schooling will train you how to handle the complications that result from these conditions, it does not prepare you for the emotional impact. It’s important, however, to realize that patients can live fulfilling lives in spite of illness, as the following testaments to the strength of the human will have shown.
When famous physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) at the age of 21, doctors did not expect him to live for long. This year, however, he celebrated his 70th
birthday, making him one of the longest surviving patients with this debilitating disease. Despite being confined to a wheelchair since 1970, he has changed the way the world thinks about black holes and the origin of the universe by taking advantage of the latest advances in communication devices for the disabled, such as the sensor that translates his facial twitches into computer commands.
In 1991, an HIV diagnosis was usually considered to be a death sentence since there were very few drugs available to treat the disease and many people did not have access to the vast amount of HIV and AIDS educational resources available today. It’s no surprise, then, that basketball fans everywhere were shocked by Magic Johnson’s announcement that he would retire due to contracting the HIV virus. This did not stop him from playing basketball, however, because less than a year later he played on the Dream Team
during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Today, he remains in good health thanks to a number of advances in HIV drugs and remains an inspiration to others who are living with the disease.
Helen Keller’s story remains one of the most influential examples of how a strong mindset can overcome terrible odds. An illness left her both blind and deaf as a baby, and at that time, few people would have expected her to take care of herself let alone communicate. Anne Sullivan, a teacher for the blind, believed that she could reach Helen through sign language, and managed to rescue her from seven long years of darkness. Not only did Helen successfully learn to communicate, but she also earned a college degree, wrote a dozen books, and became one of the leading spokespersons for the disabled, which is why the U.S. Capital dedicated a bronze statue to her many accomplishments in 2009.
Few people diagnosed with congenital heart failure would aspire to become a professional athlete, much less in extreme sports. Yet, superstar skater/snowboarder and Olympic Gold Medal winner Shaun White didn't let his heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, which involves four anatomical abnormalities of the heart, stop him form pursuing his dream. Even though he had two open-heart surgeries before his first birthday, he already started snowboarding and skating at the age of six and entered professional sports at 13. Nowadays, White is one of the best-known athletes in the world and has won numerous skateboarding and snowboarding competitions.
About the author
Steven Ellis, a freelance writer, is passionate about health care, education, and technology. Most recently, Steven has written a lot about medical assistant training and other medical schooling programs. Follow Steven on Twitter @stvnlls.