Giving your fighting spirit wings
From time to time, past patients return to health care facilities to thank their caregivers for the care they received. Some simply share their gratitude with a hug, while others may bestow a card or a baked good.
When John McHale returned to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center to thank Dr. Mysha Mason, however, he brought with him something more touching than she ever could have imagined.
“John gave me a Distinguished Flying Cross that he had been awarded in 1967 for acts of heroism during one of the more than 100 missions he flew over North Vietnam as a first lieutenant with the U.S. Air Force,” she said. “I was stunned and told him I wasn’t sure I could accept such an incredible gift. He just grinned back and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got two more at home.’”
McHale explained that he wanted Mason to have it because “it just felt right” to him.
“He spoke about how much he had been affected by my empathy, and how our conversations had been among the few things that helped him find the strength to push through the darkest days of his illness and recovery,” said Mason. “It seemed that he now wanted to pass on this symbol of one of his own acts of heroic acts to me, because in his eyes, what I and the rest of the dedicated team had done for him had been heroic in its own way.”
McHale had fallen ill due to an infected prosthetic hip joint and a slew of life-threatening complications related to the systemic illness caused by his infection. His prognosis was grim, but he didn’t want to die.
“In my experience, the will to live can be incredibly powerful. Hope also often plays a pivotal role in determining whether someone will ultimately succumb to their illness, merely survive it, or if they will truly heal,” said Mason. “I believe that the art of medicine is centered around the same set of skills that we find most difficult to master and to teach – those less tangible abilities that help determine whether someone is viewed as being a simple doctor, a true physician or something more akin to a healer. It’s about knowing how to really listen, build trust and show your essential humanness in a way that encourages patients to be vulnerable with you. It’s often about finding ways to turn fear into hope, and always ensuring your patients have a sense of being known and valued – a sense of being ‘cared for’ rather than merely ‘treated.’”
Mason says it’s about using small, personal human connections to help patients find their way back to feeling whole again. When there’s success, one is able to find more meaning in one’s own life and work.
“This is how we refill our own proverbial cups so we can continue to pour our hearts and our minds into this incredibly intense, demanding, sometimes traumatic – yet indescribably rewarding – work of being a physician,” said Mason.
You Make Extraordinary Possible Together, we recognize and honor the qualities within ourselves by shining a spotlight on how each and every one of us improve lives in big ways and small.
You Make Extraordinary Possible
Together, we recognize and honor the qualities within ourselves by shining a spotlight on how each and every one of us improve lives in big ways and small.