One of my special “thank-yous” this year has to be for my husband’s recovery from a heart attack and triple by-pass surgery in August. The heart attack was totally unexpected because he seemed very healthy except for some back problems and a few other minor complaints. Besides that, since he had a pacemaker put in several years ago, he has been under the care of a cardiologist who did regular exams including stress tests. He always passed with flying colors, and the doctor commented that he hoped he would be in as good a shape when he got to my husband’s age (72, in case you’re wondering). So it was quite a shock when the doctor came out of the heart cath lab on that August day to tell us that my husband was literally a ticking time bomb and needed immediate surgery.
I will be eternally grateful (1) that he survived the heart attack, (2) that we were in a place where the surgery could be done immediately, and (3) that his recovery has been truly remarkable in several ways. He was able to leave the hospital within six days after the surgery. He has quickly regained his strength, so much so that he did not have to miss his bear hunt this fall. He is doing any and everything he wants to do. The doctors told us to expect that in time, but I think the speed of his come-back is unusual, probably because he was basically in good shape–except for his heart–before the attack.
But I have noticed something else. Many of the things that were bothering him before the surgery no longer do. For example, he had complained for several years about acid reflux and doctors had prescribed various medications for it. Yet even with the medications, he still had frequent attacks. Since the surgery, no more acid reflux. I think this suggests that the “acid reflux” was really referred chest pain, but no doctor ever suggested that.
Another example was severe leg cramps. He woke up almost every night for years before the attack with cramps so bad he would have to get out of bed and stand and stretch the muscle to get relief. Various doctors suggested remedies–drink more water, take zinc tablets, etc. Nothing worked. The most recent doctor put him on valium, which seemed to provide some relief. And since the heart surgery? No leg cramps.
This got me thinking that quite probably many of the minor complaints he was experiencing may have actually been tied to the undetected heart problems. Yet no doctor put all the pieces together to zero in on the real issue. This certainly makes the argument for digitized and accessible health records seem more reasonable to me, although I also see the downside of that.
However, because it’s never very far from my mind, I began thinking how this idea of looking at the whole patient applies in education. Many educational folks have long called for teaching the whole child, but what is happening today at the behest of test-focused educrats and corporatistas is anything but teaching the whole child. These single-minded policymakers seem to feel that the prescription for what ails education is their test-and-punish accountability policies. If we just administer the prescription with more “rigor,” college and career ready students will automatically graduate from our schools at a 100% rate. Here’s a clue, policymakers–you’re not treating the whole child. As long as you ignore 75 to 80% of the factors that impact how well children can do in school, as long as you want to claim that students with special needs just need to be encouraged to work harder, as long as you blame teachers for the problems you yourself have created, you will at some point be confronted with “a heart attack.”
Perhaps it has already begun. This gives me hope–the dumping of Common Core in several states, the rise of parent activist groups all across the country connected by social media, the opt-out movement among both parents and teachers that is spreading like wildfire. Now even higher ed is beginning to wake up, jerked to attention by the new draft regulations to insert the DOE as the determiner of whether teacher education programs are effective, yet again based on students’ test scores. The next step is for all of these groups to recognize that they have a common enemy and actively and deliberately collaborate to be the educrats’ heart attack. They are the plaque in the arteries of corporate reform. They have already given them “chest pain;” they just need to keep up the pressure.