I am going to be 92 years old in a few weeks and am at a crossroad in my life. My wife of 66 years has been in the depths of her dementia for several years, being taken care of by efficient caregivers at home. Just recently she was admitted to a long-term care unit for her ongoing care. I also have to sell our house, where we have lived for 60 years.
You can imagine the number pictures, photographs, and pieces of memorabilia that we collected over our life together. I even discovered a collection of thousands of little hand drawings that I used to leave for my wife when I went to work in the morning. While she was still asleep, I would draw small images about what we had done the day before, mostly depicting fun moments or saluting my wife’s tennis prowess and my lack of sporting talent. Other drawings had loving innuendos about what my wife used to refer to as “our good enough” sex life. They all brought laughter and tears to my eyes simultaneously.
I didn’t know my wife had kept them; here they were, a report of our enjoyment of each other’s company, including all the sidetracks in life—children, cats and dogs, achievements, and disappointments.
Strangely, what brought all this to mind was a Letter to the Editor by Dr Richard Merchant, anesthesiologist and former president of the Medical Staff Association of the Royal Columbian Hospital. During an excavation in the hospital’s new wing, 70 years of the Medical Staff Association’s meeting records were identified in a basement storage room. Now Dr Merchant is on a hunt for a suitable place to safely relocate these treasures to. They are treasures because the pages of those documents contain a history of the hospital, its long-dead physicians, their earnest attempts to improve patient care, the occasional mistakes made by individuals or groups of physicians and how they corrected them, and debates about working with the administration or about reorganizing departments in a constantly growing institution. It is the life history of a valued institution and there seems to be no safe place for their preservation.
Reading Dr Merchant’s letter I feel his frustration. I can put my little drawings in a box, but to save the invaluable records of his beloved hospital he needs appropriate physical space. I am not surprised that other public institutions were not able to offer the appropriate space, but surely Doctors of BC could step up to the plate and find a location to honor the records of past doctors of the Royal Columbian Hospital and other important provincial institutions.
—George Szasz, CM, MD
This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.