Every day, on our morning walk, the dogs and I pass a terrible tree of thorns.
It is a fearsome tree. From its trunk far up into its branches, it is bursting with clusters of two- and three-inch long razor-sharp thorns. If you tried to shinny up the tree, you’d be punctured in a hundred places before you got up into the branches. It’s the ultimate form of protection against an unwanted tree invasion.
The thorn defense is formidable, but why does it exist? I always understood thorns, and other biological and botanical defense mechanisms, to develop through the process of evolution and natural selection. For some reason, trees with thorns must have been better suited to surviving than trees that weren’t bristling with dagger-like projections — but why? Were there once bears in our sleepy suburban neighborhood, or other large, thick-furred mammals who were a threat to the tree and could only be discouraged by such long, sharp thorns? And what kind of threat did they pose that required such menacing defenses? Were they eating something the tree produced, or stripping its bark?
The thorn tree gives no answers. It just stands there, silent and dreadful, posing its thorny questions with no obvious answers in the vicinity.
Yesterday our family had urgent need of our American medical system . . . and boy, did it ever deliver!
In our case, the medical problem was a blockage caused by a large blood clot in the brain. A skilled surgeon was able to use a new, less invasive procedure — one that has been in use at the hospital for only about six months — to follow the blood vessel up into the brain and use suction to dislodge and then safely remove the clot. The entire procedure took less than an hour and left the blood vessel and brain tissue undisturbed.
Americans often complain about the cost of our health care system, but we also should boast, even more frequently, about the amazing quality of the care it provides. In our case, the very recent technological advances permitted a result that is nothing short of miraculous — and it was a result that wasn’t reserved for royalty or the super-rich, but instead was available to a worried family that brought a loved one to a neighborhood hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Where would we be if our hospitals were not striving to provide the best care imaginable?
Without lapsing into the political realm, I think it’s fair to say that our experience is one of the reasons why the Affordable Care Act is of concern to so many people. Yesterday, when time was of the essence, we received the care we needed immediately, without having to cut through red tape or waiting to receive bureaucratic approvals. I’d hate to think that things might change that would change that result — or, in some way, remove the incentives that our hospitals have to purchase and use the space-age technology that consistently delivers the modern medical miracles to which we’ve become so accustomed — and for which we are so grateful.