Yo Doc, WTF Were You Thinking?

I’m all for honesty in medicine.  If you aren’t gonna make it, you deserve to know that.

However, I’m MORE for compassion when being honest.

One of the ladies on my hall came to the nursing home last Sunday evening.  She’s got a health history as long as my arm, which includes quite a bit of cancer treatment.

She’s no slouch & she’s no dummy.  She’s a widow (times two) and has her faculties about her.  Her kids are in another state though, so she’s somewhat alone.  She’s got a brother who’s also elderly & a “church family” who’ve visited her several times this week.

Well, today her doctor strolled in and spoke these words to her:

Mrs. G, we all are here on Earth for a limited time & your time is more limited than some folks’.  I’ve done what I can do & I’m sending you home on hospice.

And he walked out.

I mean he dropped that bombshell on her & fucking walked out like he’d told her she was cured.  There were no words of comfort and he had the indecency to just leave her there, sitting in her chair.

And there she sat, all alone.

I WANTED to run the doctor down and ask him WHERE he learned to be such an insensitive prick, but instead I went to her.  She didn’t know I’d heard the doctor’s words.  She quoted them to me and of course started to cry.

I don’t care that a patient needed their cholesterol medication right then or that another needed his pants changed.  Right then, she was the only one that mattered to me.

I sat down on the bed & listened to her.  I was silent for a bit.  Then, I told her that her doctor had the bedside manner of a jerk & she giggled.

I told her I sure wasn’t a doctor and I couldn’t tell her how long she would or wouldn’t live, but to know that “hospice” didn’t necessarily mean The End- I know a man who’s been on hospice for about 10 years now.  I told her I couldn’t tell her she’d go home & be fine, but I couldn’t predict her immediate death either.  And that just because a doctor said it, it wasn’t law.

We held hands for a bit, she cried & we talked.  We prayed & we talked some more & she smiled a few times.  We sat quietly.

I told her I had to see some other patients who needed my attention, but I’d be back.

While I was tending to other patients, her oncologist called.  Seems he’d gotten the message from the other doctor as to what he’d told her.

I was the one who got to give her his message-  Mrs. G, Doctor X is but a general practitioner, I am your oncologist and *I* have not signed off on you.  You’ve still got a shot at getting well & I’ve called your daughter.  She’s bringing you in for an appointment Monday and WE will sit & talk about everything.

She may die before Monday gets here.  She may not die for 6 months or another 6 years.  I have no idea how long she will grace this earth with her presence.

And honestly, if her doctor thought she only had 6 weeks to live, I can respect him for telling her.

My problem is- he KNEW she was there alone. How dare he waltz in, drop that bombshell on her and waltz out, knowing she was sitting there alone.  Had I not been within earshot (and not many folks standing where I was would have been able to hear what he said) she would have sat there, alone for at least a couple of hours.  Couldn’t he have asked her nurse to step in the room?  Couldn’t he have stopped by the nurses’ station at least and told us what he was about to tell her?

Did he have to be such an insensitive prick?

I needed today to be Friday.  I need some time to process what I’ve learned this week.  I need to search my soul over a few more times.  Maybe I have found where I belong. I thought I belonged in the hospital, working to save lives.  Perhaps I belong in the nursing home, helping to enrich what is left of people’s lives.

Maybe I have found where I belong.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Portia
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 19:07:48

    It sure sounds that you’ve found where the patients need you. I cannot believe (well, yes I can) that a doctor said that to anyone! What an ass!

  2. Glenn Mark Cassel
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 21:21:58

    Me thinks the Almighty has tapped you on the shoulder…………..and whispered……………this is the place where you belong.

  3. Rick
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 23:49:18

    Thank God you were there for that woman.
    You are right where God wanted you to be.
    May God Bless You.

  4. Bob Perrow
    Sep 11, 2010 @ 01:09:24

    Snigs, you are a kind, sensitive soul. Thank God for people like you.

  5. Old NFO
    Sep 11, 2010 @ 01:27:18

    Who knows Snigs… maybe you ARE in the right place… That is between you and the man upstairs! Thank you for your patience and taking the time to comfort that lady.

  6. Crucis
    Sep 11, 2010 @ 18:24:28

    Miracles exist and do happen. I’ve witnessed a few. I saw a man so crippled with arthritis he could barely walk and then only with two canes, dance and run several hundred yards hand-in-hand with his g’grandkids.

    Attitude counts. I firmly believe we’re here at long as we wish to be. Tell Mrs. “X”, I believe she’ll be on this earth just as along as she wants to be and not a moment less.

  7. jon spencer
    Sep 12, 2010 @ 18:41:02

    In a hospital the patients come and go and you know them as “room-23 broken leg”.
    If you do go to work caring for the elderly, you will get to know them and their relatives and friends. Might even become a friend yourself. This relationship can last for years. When they pass on it can/does hurt. Takes a special person to nurse in a Home.

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