I was taken aback by the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona killing six and wounding 14 people including Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, the result of a “sick individual.”

I am heartfelt when I see pictures of wounded soldiers and survivors of  vehicle accidents with various injuries in different stages of recovery. It is common to hear people say “thank God they survived” when a person moves beyond the critical condition into the recovery stage in these cases. We are all connected in one way or another  to these people through their tragedy, whether it be as friends, family, or colleagues.

It has been said that for every person who dies, 50 other people are affected and that time allows for healing and lets us move on. The same cannot be said for people who have long-term illnesses  or have life-altering injuries from a tragedy. Fifty others are in a constant state of grief for years, but sadly, cannot move on due to years of recovery and rehabilitation. The stagnant health of the elderly is a constant on the system and family members for the remainder of their life. So, why do we say “thank God they survived“ whether it be the result of illness, injury, or living past our prime?

Our medical system is so sophisticated with new advances in tests, treatment and medical devices created every year. We have the brightest minds working on our behalf through the medical system and it appears we can surgically repair or stabilize those off  the “battle field” or from vehicle accidents as long as they survive the golden hour.  It almost appears that nature was doing mankind a favor in years past when we allowed the sick and injured to die peacefully.

My parents are both elderly and have been  in various stages of ill health for almost ten years. Because of the miracles of modern medicine, my father’s ministrokes have been controlled, shaking from Parkinson’s disease  is minimized, depression is under treatment, and he has survived three bouts with pneumonia. My mother almost died four years ago due to old age. She was going through the final stages of life with days to live. No need to get graphic. The doctor was hesitant to take her off her medications unless the entire family agreed.

He said “I won’t play God.”

By keeping her on the medications, the family agreed he was playing God. The immediate family and friends are in constant state of grief. My mother having a fighting spirit lived. Today, four years later she is in a wheelchair, incontinent, and sleeps most of the day.

My brother and his wife are my parent’s caregivers and are on call emotionally 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even though my parents are in an assisted living facility the emotional tie persists. We all feel it. My brothers, our wives, and friends all worry about my parents and how long  the nightmare with my mother will continue. My parents, very active in their youth never would have wanted to live in this lifestyle. No, my mother is not in pain, but she is no longer active in life either. Recovery is not an option in these situations. Thank God? I don’t think so.

I see soldiers and victims of violence on the news recovering from extensive injuries scarred physically and emotionally for life. Those who survive head trauma for example, often have life long migraines, seizures, and paralysis.  Family and friends scramble to find services for long-term care, financial assistance to keep the home; both patient and family search for job prospects to adjust to new circumstances.  These tragedies alter the lives of family and friends in ways no one can really imagine. The community rallies behind the sick and injured and people learn to accommodate with the constant no end in sight.

This is not intended to be a negative view of long-term illness, injury, or the acceptance of death as a peaceful resolve. It is a reality check. We do need healthcare reform of some kind as a protection and because we are all connected to each other on one way or another. The cost of surviving a tragedy is high in more ways than one, and dying at an unforeseen time should at times be embraced.

Allen Prell lives in Keizer.