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A Letter Can Save Your Life

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“Nobody writes letters anymore.” Are you the last nobody, I silently ask when I hear this statement. And I hear it quite frequently.  I was one of those nobodies, until a recent event showed me a letter can be so strong, so powerful as to save one’s life. Such a letter saved my life.

In a wide wireless world of electronic communication via Skype, Twitter, blogs, email, Facebook, IM, texting, podcasts, live streaming, cell phones, YouTube, virtual reality, and brain computer interface (BCI), a letter just seems out of place. A letter is probably the last method of communication most of us would resort to in order to make a point, get noticed, have our say. But if we are all so inundated with e-stuff, a letter might have found a new power, in truth the same power a letter has always possessed, the power of the personal.

The last time you received a hand-addressed envelope, was it the first to be opened? The perception of time, care, of the receiver being more than an easy tap of the key is all in a few lines penned. Someone separated from a database, someone real, flesh and blood. A handwritten letter, even if the body, the guts, is typed, holds the mystery and the bonds of communication—the signature, the short extra message, the envelope lines with return address murmur a heartbeat.

So as to my letter, it was prompted by a classic falling through the cracks event. In brief, I had a doctor’s appointment, a procedure was scheduled, the procedure was conducted and then…nothing. The staff failed to book a follow-up appointment. After several weeks, including a week off for the Christmas holidays, I called, and called, and called. Every week, then every other week, same story that the doctor would be in touch. By this point my health was deteriorating and my concern growing.

As a woman of action, I chose a direct approach and stopped by the doctor’s office. In the minute before he rushed out to the hospital with a “bleeder,” he said he would call that evening. I anxiously waited, as you might be guessing by now, for the call that never came. I would have been very upset, if I hadn’t already decided I was in the process of dying and just didn’t have the strength for a fight.

Dying, or the thought of dying, can be a creative and inventive ally. If phone calls didn’t work, an in-person visit didn’t work, what could possibly work? I was struck by the thought …a LETTER. Who writes letters, nobody writes letters. So I decided to write a letter.

I keep it brief, to the point, with a request for a review of my health. As it is a one-day mail service in most of the city, I was not surprised the next day when my phone rang in the late afternoon. The doctor came as close to an apology as doctors can, suggested there is always a follow-up appointment unless the patient…long pause…moves away, and all those messages were not passed on from the front desk. Quickly past the reason for the letter, we agreed the situation was grave, as in life or death grave.

For the happy ending, surgery was immediate and successful. As for follow-up care, the doctor is reassuring that I will be a poster child of excellent health. As to the power of a letter, I am completely convinced that the letter saved my life. And from now on, I am going to be one of the last nobodies to write letters anymore.

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