Saturday, September 17, 2011
The Kind Of Doctor Who Takes Care Of Colds
I caught a glimpse of my wife standing across the room with a small group of friends. I watched her hand gestures and the shift in her posture. I had just enough alcohol to amuse myself by conjuring up mock details of their conversation. Boy Sally I love that purse but those shoes are just dreadful!
I cradled a Corona in my right hand as a distant acquaintance wandered forward in my direction. He was well dressed. A business type if I remembered correctly. He was a friend of a friend.
We chatted amiably for a few moments. Quickly running through our list of polite conversational topics before a look of excitement flashed across his face. Hey...your a doctor right? What do you practice?
I felt a twinge of disappointment and embarrassment. I really didn't like talking about my profession in public. I paused for a moment and then explained that I am an Internist.
An Internist? Like a primary care doctor? The kind of doctor who takes care of colds right?
I probably would have taken offense to his comment if his words hadn't transported me back to the struggles of the last week. My eyes glazed over.
I signed four death certificates last week. Each patient was in hospice. One in the hospital. One at home, and two in a hospice unit. Three I had known for years. The fourth was a young man who I just met. I spent hours counseling each one of them.
I admitted ten people to the hospital. Some got better. Some got worse. A few ended up in the ICU.
I was on call half the week and hadn't slept most of those nights. I returned each morning dutifully to see patients in clinic. I struggled as always to sort out the bio-psycho-social causes of illness. I diagnosed a case or two of gout. Saw a patient with erythema chronica migrans whose Lyme titers were markedly positive. I told a young woman she has cancer.
I worried. I paced. I stressed. I ignored my children nagging at my feet as I returned the deluge of phone calls from the nursing home.
I held hands. I teared up several times. And I laughed...in the hospital, in the exam room, at home. I laughed even when sometimes I felt like I wanted to cry.
I woke up from my haze to see that my companion was now waving his hand in front of my face. For a moment I focused on him before I purposefully walked in the direction of my wife.
Yes. The kind of doctor who takes care of colds.
Posted by Jordan Grumet at 6:48 AM