Jan. 8, 2014
Life is funny. Just when you think you’ve got something figured out, it throws you a curveball and changes your whole perspective. You think it’s cold—and then your power goes out for days, as mine, (and hundreds of thousands of others in mid-Michigan), did over the holidays. You think having your power out is bad, and then you hear about a very ill friend and suddenly shivering under blankets and losing food from your freezer doesn’t seem bad at all.
A football season starts, and you question how bad it’s going to be, and then all of a sudden a trip to the Rose Bowl starts to look possible. Your team makes it to the Rose Bowl and you think everything is great, and then your star player doesn’t make the trip and prognosticators are betting against your team. Then somehow, your team shows grit, determination, leadership and talent and your star’s replacement comes up big and suddenly your team is the Rose Bowl champion.
And then just when you think that the Spartans have given you the best New Year’s gift by winning the game, something else happens that puts everything in perspective, (a little too much perspective), and you realize a different Spartan gift is way more important.
The day after that incredible Spartan win, I was feeling great. The mood all over campus was high as everyone was celebrating the Rose Bowl victory. Toward the end of the day, a coworker and I went to visit our friend in the hospital and in an instant, my perspective changed.
I was standing in the hallway when the world started to go black around me and I grabbed the wall railing. Suddenly, it was if I had been hit by MSU’s stunning defense from the front and the back and the world came back into view. I knew then that my heart had received my first shock from my internal defibrillator (ICD) that I had implanted six years earlier. To make a long story short, without that shock, I probably wouldn’t have survived the dangerous rhythm my heart had gone into. (I say probably only because I happened to be in a hospital. Anywhere else, I wouldn’t have had a chance). Nothing like facing death to give you a little too much perspective. With that device, I was fine in seconds—a little shaky, but fine. Modern medicine and technology are amazing and wonderful.
And so is my doctor, who just happens to be a Spartan. Eric Good works down the road at that other Michigan university with the world-class hospital, but he went to school and was trained right here at MSU. (I consider it a great MSU/U of M collaboration). After talking with him after the incident, I realized the best gift I got from a Spartan wasn’t a football trophy, but my life. Six years ago he told me I needed the ICD. After going so long without ever having it fire, I questioned if it was true. But Dr. Good was able to predict my risk. He hoped I wouldn’t need it, but there was enough in my history that he wasn’t willing to leave it to chance, and thank goodness he didn’t. Thank goodness he had the foresight to put this life-saving device in my chest, because I still have a lot of living to do.
There will always be debates about medical technology and the ethics about who should receive what care and whether costs outweigh rewards. As you might imagine, I’m a pretty big proponent of using ICDs in patients like me. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of living left in me that is worth way more than the cost of my device.
Leonard Fleck, professor of philosophy and faculty member in MSU’s Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, has studied the topic through the years. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Ethical Dimensions of Health Care, to learn more about his thoughts on the topic.
Back to the Rose Bowl—it really was a great win. People look at the Rose Bowl team and celebrate them, as they should. It’s fun to be a part of such a big athletic accomplishment. We call them game changers, and they are, on and off the field. Read about Mike Sadler, Ph.D. student, Spartan punter and three-time Academic All-American in the STUDENT VIEW: Game Changer.
But there are so many more game-changing Spartans than just those who can stop any offense in the country or throw a touchdown pass. Games, and lives, are changing every day all over the world by Spartans just like Dr. Good.
In true Spartan fashion, he was humble when I thanked him for saving my life. I know he thinks it’s part of his job. But his job is more than just that. His job is to give people like me the greatest gift on earth.