Death & Loss

I’m Sorry I Couldn’t Do More.

You took your life.

I’m sorry I was only
fifteen feet away.

The doctors were only fifteen feet away.

You didn’t know this.
But I spent days and nights
next door to where you decided
to end your life. Where the doctors
gather, pondering over differentials…
treatments…dissecting our every move
to ensure that we are doing the
right thing for you.

The right thing…

If I had known you,
I would have fought for you.
I know you weren’t my patient;
I know we had never even met.
I am just the person who found
you. Who pronounced you.
You were already cold,
but still, I placed the
stethoscope against
your chest and

I didn’t hear anything.

Did you hear me as
I wept for you?

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry
you were suffering.

I’m sorry you felt
as if
you had
no way out.

I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. 

This is a reflection over an event that happened during residency.
An event I still think about at times. 
A lingering guilt.

34 replies »

  1. Wow, that is life changing just to read it… you seem to be one of the ” super sensitive’s” on this earth and it is a blessing and curse sometimes… I think you are awesome for your insight and your emotion.

  2. It is obvious this event changed you. Sometimes there is nothing you could do, sometimes people like to choose the time hey want to o or how much their need to suffer. And lastly, sometimes it’s about the hearts & minds they have the power to touch.

  3. First, I have to admire you for doing what you do. The average “burn out” for volunteers at CIU was 2 years. I think that I did well to complete 2-1/2 yrs before I thought it wise to stop. You “guys” are making careers out of healthcare and, while not all cases are traumatic or negative, quite a few most certainly are. Keep up the compassion … but stay mentally healthy yourself (and I suspect that is not as easy as it sounds).

    I really feel for you in this specific situation because, as you and I both know, the majority of people who attempt suicide are not trying to kill themselves. They are offering a desperate cry for help (hence the phone calls, or otherwise letting someone know what they have done). In my capacity as volunteer, I was shielded from negativity as much as possible… but you are confronted with it. Take care Phoebe. The world needs as many doctors like you as possible.

    • Thank you for your encouraging words, Colin. I imagine it took a special person to be able to volunteer at the CIU. You played a pivotal role in the lives of many people, and no doubt saved the lives of some, while helping them all in one way or another. I’m glad you shared that on your blog…it was such an inspiring story!

      Take care, and have a wonderful day! 🙂

      • Thx Phoebe but, being on the “receiving end” of help a long time ago, it was something that I really wanted to do. Perhaps a sub-conscious desire to give back? Regardless, it was an incredibly educational, rewarding, and life changing experience. I wish more people would volunteer to help the less fortunate in some capacity or other. 🙂

  4. These things stay with us even if we wish they wouldn’t……the “what if” moments in our lives…..and in your case, you have done so many spectacular things, so many life changing and life saving things……helped so many…….you must remind yourself of THOSE moments. We each have the power over our own lives and if we choose to end it, no amount of caring will save us. I feel confident telling you that your smile, your caring, your “gift”, HAS saved many patients in the past and will in the future.

    Hugs, Pam

  5. I understand why you feel guilty, but not even a beautifully humanist doctor is omnipotent. I hope you can let it go and focus on all the good you do. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help, and you can’t defeat Death in every case. I’m sure you know that. Bright blessings to you.

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