This morning the thermometer in my car read one degree below zero. There is snow and ice and slush on the ground. And this is warm compared to the forecast for the days ahead. I gripe and I grumble with the medical assistants. Woe is us, it is winter in Chicago.
The second patient of the day gives perspective.
“I think I have diabetes,” she says. “My toes are tingling.” And I ask her to take off her shoes for the physical exam.
She is wearing pink paisley plastic rain boots, silver duct tape placed strategically over the heel. With men’s white cotton exercise socks for insulation.
It is so cold the Chicago Public School system is considering canceling classes on Monday, when wind chill will go to 45 degrees–below zero. They may be on to something. Thin plastic and cotton are no protection from Chicago’s bitter January cold. How many of my patients, how many of the students, are at risk for frostbite and worse while waiting at unheated busstops to bring them to class or to the doctor?
“These boots are good for the rain,” she says, sadly. April showers to bring May flowers, still four to five months away.
I prescribe her a pair of warm winter boots and wool socks, and direct her to visit Health Leads on her way out the door.
Health and compassion expert Emma Seppala (full disclosure: my college roommate) says gratitude is good for the soul. Today, I feel deeply grateful as I prepare to leave clinic, zipping a cashmere hoodie over my wool turtleneck sweater, adding layers of warmth. A down jacket, topped by a thick magenta scarf my little sister knit me, black leather gloves and a black wool hat. A heated seat in my car, a blissfully clanging radiator to welcome me home.
Feeling gratitude for warmth in winter.