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Input Sought After Test Results

Segment two offers a glimpse into some reported history of Maxwell’s, Max for short, work history. A dairy farmer turned P.A., Max’s work schedule was lengthy and challenging. I wondered if the years had taken a bit out of his endurance. I’m reminded of a radio interview I heard years ago. The speaker, a neuropsychologist, stated that our bodies were wired to sleep when it’s dark outside. Daytime work allowed, he added, for a healthier schedule for sleep. Additional work shifts introduced during the industrial age transformed daytime schedules to 24- hour schedules.

I think about dairy farmers who work in the dark hours of the day in cold-weather months. Animals require at least twice-daily attention, lots of time and physical exertion. Max was referred for counseling by his boss and friend Bert, a physician. Max fell asleep during a session with his patient. The patient left the office and complained. I sensed concern from the PCP. He is described as compassionate and caring. Max needs the job. The job needs Max. Several weeks passed before I fielded a follow-up call from Max. He’d completed the sleep study and wanted to meet for another session. He wanted some input given the test results.

Welcome again, Max. How are you? “Thanks for the welcome, Marshall. The weeks have gone by quickly. I completed the comprehensive study. Yes, they found some 02 and heart rhythm discrepancies. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Presently, I’m getting use to oxygen set up for sleep. Hopefully, this will help improve my sleep. I have to tell you how ashamed and embarrassed I am for crashing in the exam room. My patient refused my apology call. He went for medical services elsewhere. My boss/friend has been supportive. He offered to reduce my patient load and hours until the study was finalized. Kinda strange. The doctor or P.A. in my case needed medical help.” Max, how do you feel right now?

“Looking back, I realize how hard I’ve worked. My whole work-life schedule has been long. Little time to unwind, they say, may have contributed to sleep problems. But who knows. I want to work. I am going to continue with the reduced patient load and work hours. This personal information has been kept quiet in our office. My nurse knows and she, too, supports me. We laugh at her helicopter overtures. She keeps me in check.” That’s great Max. How about your wife? What does she have to offer?

“Funny you ask. I came home early one day. She was pleasantly surprised. We sat together in the hammock drinking some ice tea. I’m taking a break from alcohol. I don’t know if there is any link to sleep matters and alcohol. We, my wife and I, spend more time together. We go for walks, take drives for ice cream.” You mentioned the patient who left your office and the clinic itself. How are you dealing with that loss?

“Since he wouldn’t take my call to apologize, Bert took it upon himself to reach out. The patient came in and shared his feelings. He was angry yet really disappointed. He thought I was bored/disinterested. Bert clarified that point with him. He told the gentleman that the incident was taken seriously and changes unspecified were in order. Finally, he asked the patient to kindly forgive me. We had a history. I saw him through some serious medical problems. Though the patient resisted any thoughts of returning, he left the meeting less angered. Still, he was disappointed.” Wow, what a great resolution. Hopefully, your now former patient is healing.

“Me, too, Marshall. You know, a couple of days ago my wife and I were at a local Farmer’s Market. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed my former patient. I waved but not too strenuously. I felt timid. He gestured a wave and sported a smile. That was the extent of it. I kinda felt a small sense of relief.” So, what else are you doing to transform that incident into a healthy experience?

“Well, I’m reading more. I watch less drama TV. I’ve had more time to plan excursions with my grandkids. You know, I feel more alive, more active. I love playing in the dirt with them. We’re planning a visit to our other son and his family who we don’t see enough. Also, I met with a retirement financial woman. My wife loves it. I plan to meet with Bert and to talk about part-time work. I think we’ll keep the animals and their demands alive for now. Thank-you.”

I wondered how many examples liken to Max’s episode are out there. So many of us work long hours to sustain life; we don’t use our vacations. We take on so much and leave little time for sleep and rest. I keep meeting people, friends, and family from all walks of life with sleep problems. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

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