I am almost 73 years old and live with multiple medical complexities. When you discover measures are available to improve or even possibly sustain life, any delays receiving those measures can create tremendous added stress and anxiety. I have spoken to many people who, like me, are dealing with long wait times for appointments or corrective procedures to keep them safe. 

In January, I unexpectedly lost consciousness while exercising. While hospitalized for three days, test after test was administered to find the cause. When no test could explain why I passed out, I was sent home wearing a heart monitor for a month. After 30 days, it took another three weeks to be able to meet with the nurse practitioner (NP) only to learn that the medical field still did not have an explanation for my loss of consciousness a few months prior. The NP informed me that a loop monitor would have to be implanted in the chest to monitor my heart continually. 

I left the appointment discouraged as I waited for a call to schedule the procedure. A week passed, and no scheduler contacted me. Another week went by and still no call from the office to schedule the implantation. Anxiously and frustrated, I called the office. To my dismay and shock, I learned the scheduler never contacted me because the referral had never been received by the department. Uncovering this mistake, the office moved quickly to correct the error on their end. Three weeks later, I went in for the implantation of the loop monitor. 

While relieved now, all those days stuck in the waiting game left me wretched with fear: hoping not to pass out again; hoping if I do, I will be lucky not to have injuries; and hoping for a solution to make my life safer again.

So why am I addressing this issue? There are many patients whose lives are “on-hold” as they wait for needed health measures. The unease caused by waiting for these calls and/or bookings for tests, surgeries, or results that seem to take too long leave us as patients in a dreaded limbo: attempting to live each day with the added anxiety as to when the call might come and what the outcome may be.

Are you a person, like me, who finds themselves in this worrisome waiting pattern?  Are you hoping that a correction is found to help your life improve, but now facing extended periods of time trying to connect with specialists, schedule appointments, move on with life? Waiting is taxing, but it is something we cannot seem to avoid. We have to wait…

So what do we do during this time? I guess if you think about it, none of us know what might come next.  What I have tried to focus on is that despite the pain, discomfort, and the unknown ahead, this is my life right now. And I am only guaranteed the present. For those who are like me, we must continue to work through the hard times of unease and anxiety and try to find some peace and gratefulness. It is hard to be patient, but  I do not want to live in fear, anger, and with no hope. 


May you find peace in life as you are waiting with your life on hold…


–by Ellen Lenox Smith

About the Author:

Ellen Lenox Smith has emerged as a leading voice for patients living with pain. Currently, Ellen serves as Co-Director of Medical Cannabis Advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and is a member of its Board of Directors. She is also active with the EDS RI support group.

Prior to patient advocacy, Ellen was a longtime middle school social studies teacher. She has been married for 48 years and is the proud mother of four adult children and grandmother to five grandchildren. She also is the author of two books, an organic gardener, and was previously a master swimmer and high school swim coach.

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