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A half empty glass for medical care

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 8/7/2014, 1:31 p.m.

I am sure that you have heard the expression after things have overtaken you to look at the situation as a glass half full, rather than a glass half empty. In my practice of medicine, I have always advised a patient after a diagnosis is made to consider that many things may be done to relieve suffering and bring their health back into balance.

When I was a kid, my mom would can fruits and vegetables for the cold winter months, when those foods were not plentiful at the corner store. Although this preservation of foods was called “canning,” it was really “jarring” in glass containers. It was done with perfection to keep the healthy goodies from spoiling. Everything had to be kept sterile. Otherwise, bubbles would occur in the jar, telling you there were live bacteria or yeast present and that the food would not be edible.

I would say that one should, even today, consider eating preserved foods that are stored in glass rather than metal containers. It has been recently observed by scientists that many chemicals in plastics and can linings may contain toxic materials that seep into the food product.

Now, getting back to the jar of the matter. I was called one day to make a house call in Greenwich Village. This was not my territory. However, the urgency of the man’s voice on the phone catalyzed my decision to go. Arriving at my destination, I found out that the address was an apartment house. After gaining entrance and finding the apartment, I rang the bell and was pleasantly met by an elderly gentlemen who shook my hand with relief that I had arrived. The apartment was warm and comfortable but small. He led me into the bedroom off the kitchen, where I observed his invalid daughter in need of medical care. He related to me that she had many birth defects and was mostly bedridden.

After examining her, it was evident that she had severe bronchitis and difficulty breathing but required no hospitalization. I reached into my bag, which was always full of medications for emergencies. I always carried enough medicine in case a drugstore was unavailable or if the patient lacked the means for payment of these drugs.

As I looked around the room, I was overtaken by the drawings hung on the walls, which were in geometrical shapes with multiple colored lines. These drawings were beautiful, and I was told by her father that even though his daughter had poor eyesight, she created these pictures daily. I suggested to him that these pictures should be in a gallery for others to enjoy. He related to me that he had no contacts with galleries or art centers.

Since I was aware of the Studio Museum in Harlem, I suggested that I would look into having her art displayed in their gallery. When the curator saw these works, he immediately arranged a show. The rest is history.

Now, getting back to the apartment, as I was leaving, the father handed me a glass jar of coins in payment. To say the least, I was “jarred” by this experience and handed the jar back to him. He hugged me and shook my hand as I left for my office.

It is important to remember when an illness overtakes us, always look for the outcome of the jar to be half full rather than half empty and you will get well.