“You need to have an accident…”

This evening I was having a phone visit with my friend Don, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

I always enjoy our weekly chats, and tonight he discussed something that I found particularly insightful.

“I have a 7-person health team,” Don told me. “I have a heart doctor, a GP, an ophthalmologist, a dentist, a foot/nails doctor, a personal trainer, and a Chinese massage therapist.”

He named each member of his health team with pride and appreciation.

Then Don told me, “I had some friends who were so successful, so smart, so rich and they’re all gone. I don’t think they had a health team.”

I asked Don why he thinks his affluent friends had not attended to their health like he does.

“They don’t know what they don’t know,” he suggested.

What came next was the insight I found most interesting:

“You need to have an accident to know,” Don said. “If you don’t have an accident, then you never need the care. Once you have an accident, you’re brought face-to-face with doctors and it makes you think. When you have an accident, you get to know the system and you become more vigilant.”

Don had four falls that awakened him to the need for a personal trainer to help him build strength and stability.

A combination of doing some work with St. John Ambulance and listening to people’s stories throughout his life led Don to have a passion for “social marketing” about the importance of accident prevention.

He says that he has found greater uptake for accident prevention efforts in BC and Nova Scotia owing to people’s familiarity with the risks of accidents in the water.

And so, while it is important to try to prevent accidents, it can also be important to have them insofar as accidents can awaken us to our need to build our personal health team.

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