When I was a child growing up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in the 1960’s I often heard my grandparents say “If you have your health you have it all.” I thought that was silly. There are a lot of things more important than your health, a nice house, a summer vacation at the beach, Christmas presents, or a new car were on my list. What were these old people talking about, “your health”? Everybody is healthy in our family. Are they crazy? They even talked about having all their own teeth like that was something rare.
Little did I know that my grandparents spoke with a great perspective and wisdom. It would take me many years before I began to understand what they were talking about. Whether we know it or not, our entire lives do revolve around our health, and the health of our family and friends. From one generation to another health implications may differ, but the core value of good health is always there. My wise grandparents, who were born in the 1890’s, had lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. They had a reverent point of view and respect for personal health. They had seen and experienced first-hand what it was like not to have your health. Experiences such as:
- Childhood diseases that resulted in death.
- Epidemics that killed thousands.
- Tuberculosis and polio that disabled.
- Deadly infections that could not be treated.
- Industrial accidents that maimed and killed long before safety regulation were in-place.
- The loss of a child or family member to one of the unsolved health issues of their era.
- The physically or emotionally wounded soldiers who returned home.
That is what they understood.
They knew and respected how fragile human life can be.
As an architect who has spent the last 30 years of my career specializing in the design of healthcare facilities, interacting with the hospital staff, patients, and their families, I have come to the same conclusion as my grandparents had long ago, “If you have your health you do have it all.”
If we have good personal health and a healthy family we often take for granted the blessing we have. If we have lost our health, or have a sick family member, our lives can revolve around the struggle and the costs related to treatment or living with that condition. Whether it is cancer, heart disease, stroke, or a birth defect, that single health issue can consume a large portion of our lives.
If a healthy person ever thinks they are having a bad day they should spend a little time at a Children’s Hospital, a Rehabilitation Hospital, or a School /Day Care Center for physically and mentally disabled children and adults. That person will quickly realize that they don’t know what a bad day is. A healthy person can go to bed and wake up to a new day, a better day because they have their health. For those who do not have their health, each and every day presents a new challenge that revolves around their health.
Professionally, I have spent a lot of time in Children Hospitals. I go there with my eyes wide open and I see the short term and lifetime challenges that so many children and their families face. It can be heartbreaking to see the daily struggle they endure, but often the strength of the human spirit, fighting to regain good health, shines through and offers great hope.
Recently I joined the CHP Foundation’s Cardiology Auxiliary Board to try to give back what I can to those in need. The money raised by the Foundation goes to the hospital to purchase cardiology equipment, research material, and provide help for the families who may feel overwhelmed by the requirements of pediatric cardiology care. I feel blessed to have a family in good health which gives me the opportunity to help others that have not been so fortunate.
For many years, the media has been filled with debates about the Affordable Care Act, “Obama Care”, health insurance this and health insurance that. Most of the discussion centers on dollars and cents – how much should be spent, by whom, for what, and how do we afford it? This debate will probably continue for years to come without a clear solution that satisfies the majority of people. I don’t know what the best solution is to the health insurance crisis, but I believe that the value of having good healthcare available when you need it cannot be overstated.
What I do know echoes the words of my grandparents: “If you have your health, you have it all.” One day when I have grandchildren of my own, I will be sure to pass on those words of wisdom so they know what is important in life. Even if they do not understand at first, it will become clear to them in time.
Scott Hazlett is a registered architect and Senior Associate at Stantec Architecture and Engineering LLC.
Scott works out of the Stantec Butler, Pennsylvania Office and can be reached at [email protected].