Jim McGrath, the post-White House spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, just tweeted that an apparently ill Mrs. Bush, after a series of recent hospitalizations, has made the decision not to seek further medical treatment. Instead, she is shifting her focus onto "comfort care."
It appears from the information released that there is a chronic nature to her recent poor health. Beyond that, not much has been publicly disclosed. You may recall when she and her husband were simultaneously admitted to the hospital for respiratory conditions last year. This type of scenario is not uncommon as infections like that tend to spread throughout households, with the extent of disease and clinical status directly dependent on the individual. At the time, President Bush required intensive care unit services and Mrs. Bush improved expeditiously (see my article, President George H. W. Bush In ICU, Wife Barbara In Same Hospital).
As we age, our resilience and immunity tend to get diminished. Insults like recurring hospital stays can impose great stress no matter our age, but especially if we are older and have significant underlying medical conditions. Making the decision "not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care" is a very personal one. It is ideally made in consultation with treating physicians and discussions with family.
Our culture perpetuates a notion that more medical treatment is synonymous with better medical treatment. This is often not the case. When more carries graver risks than benefits, it can be a tool to create more harm than good. Palliative and supportive care is especially important and most meaningful when employed at an optimal time to assuage suffering and facilitate vitality whenever possible.
The statement includes "Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health." It appears she is surrounded by family and receiving the medical care that is best suited for her needs. Preserving a patient's autonomy is integral to providing ethical management of disease. Hopefully she will return to good health and she and her family will find much comfort during such a difficult time.
Dr. Jamie Wells, MD, FAAP, is an award-winning Board-Certified physician with over a decade of experience caring for patients and the Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. She served as a Clinical Instructor/Attending at NYU Langone, Mt. Sinai-Beth Israel and St. Vincent's Medical Centers in Manhattan. Dr. Wells graduated from Yale University with honors, was inducted as a junior and elected President of Jefferson Medical College's Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society and has been named a New York Super Doctor, repeatedly, in the NY Times magazine supplement listing the top 5% of physicians in over 30 medical specialties as chosen by their peers.
A National Merit Scholar, Dr. Wells was identified for her academic excellence early on when she was selected by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) for its prestigious Research Science Institute (RSI) and was featured as one of the top twenty high school students in the nation in USA TODAY as a recipient of their scholarship. At Yale, she was President of the Yale Science and Engineering Association, majored in American Studies and concentrated in media and film, spending her final year researching her senior essay entitled, "Ebola: The Making of an Epidemic"-- exploring the power of the governmental, political, public health and media machines and their desire to work in harmony when there is a common economic concern. In medical school, she maintained various leadership and elected positions (such as Editorials Editor of the school paper and editing guides to passing Board Exams) while creating mentoring and tutoring programs and spearheading countless volunteer activities that served the school and local Philadelphia communities. During this time, she did research for the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus of patients with Essential Tremor and Parkinson's Disease.
She was a grant reviewer for Komen's 2018-2019 Community Grants Program and has judged the local, district and world championships for Dean Kamen’s F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) robotics competition as well as the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen scholarship competition for which she was recently nominated and, subsequently, elected to be a member of its Board of Directors. Dr. Wells is on the Leadership Council of The Wistar Institute (the nation's first independent biomedical research facility and certified cancer center) and is a Visiting Fellow at the Independent Women's Forum. She has been awarded America's Top Pediatricians, America’s Top Physicians Honors of Distinction and Excellence, Compassionate Doctors Award, Patients Choice Award (honors given by patients to less than 3% of the nation's 720,000 active physicians) and been recognized for her exemplary care of those with Cystic Fibrosis. Dr. Wells was named a Doctor of Excellence which profiles the world’s leading doctors who have demonstrated success and leadership in their profession. For the better part of a decade, she answered all of the medical inquiries on line for the Boomer Esiason Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's website in a section entitled, ASK DR. WELLS.
Whether she is published, for example, in the acclaimed journal Neoreviews for a case involving a near drowning of an infant via water birth, USA Today regarding the mysterious illness of US diplomats in Cuba or the Huffington Post in response to the Dolce & Gabbana controversy or 10 ways to Save Your Life or the Life of a Loved One, it is a longstanding passion of hers to make science and health understanding accessible to all. She champions empowering others to be their own advocate in healthcare and has given talks to various audiences from struggling expectant mothers and parenting groups to undergraduates, spoken on panels as well as emphasized education to patients under her care. Believing she wanted to be a brain surgeon, she began her first residency in neurosurgery, ultimately switching fields to pediatrics. As a result, her knowledge is vast in the medical realm and sought after by innumerable media outlets.
Dr. Wells’ greatest asset is making complicated material palatable for people in a nonthreatening, often humorous way. Her opinion as a medical expert has been showcased on live and taped local, national and international television programs that run the gamut from CNN, Fox National News Channel, ABC News, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera TV, NY 1, CBS, TLC, Fox Business Network, Fox 5, Parent TV, CUNY-TV, My 9, Arise TV and so on having been featured in an hour length show on Discovery Health and, repeatedly, on Sirius Radio for Martha Stewart Living. She is a huge proponent of the health benefits of animals and was certified with her adorable and gifted English Bulldog, Mollie Joe, as a therapy team.
We asked New York City to guess her profession and no one got it right: