Hank, my 88-year-old father, wanted to go on a World War II veterans honor flight from Casper Wyoming to Washington DC.
Dad had an appointment with his cardiologist a few weeks before the trip. The doctor had recently inserted a second stent. I was sure he would say that Dad should not take the arduous trip to Washington. Dad was in a wheelchair and could barely transfer from sitting to standing to bed or toilet.
The cardiologist said he should make the trip. I sputtered, “Are you sure?“ Dad was mostly incontinent as well. The doctor looked me in the eye and said, “A patient should do what is important to him, if possible.“ I had no argument.
Serving in World War II was one of my dad’s seminal memories. He grew up during his service time and became a man. Serving his country was a meaningful part of his life.
I had already sent all the application material in for him and Dad was approved. Now I had to coordinate this daunting expedition.
We packed a change of clothes, Depends, his meds and his Dopp bag with toothbrush and comb.
One of his assigned buddies was a doctor. He could give Dad his meds on time.
The atmosphere in the Casper international airport was exciting. A former governor was there. There were speeches, music and flags. I loved watching Dad and the other veterans soak up the appreciation for their service. Mom and I were feeling very patriotic as well. Mom was really enjoying the hoopla.
A crowd was at the airport to welcome the veterans back. Each one was announced to many cheers. Dad was the first one off the plane because he needed attending to. He was exhausted and relieved to be home.
Once he was all cleaned up and settled in the assisted living apartment, he expressed his gratitude. This opportunity to participate in the wider world, made him enormously happy.
Honoring Dad's wishes and values, overcame my worries about his health. This understanding is a vital part of my practice today.