Have you ever left a doctor’s office somewhat disappointed with your visit? Maybe you just spoke to a physician, but instead of having all your concerns addressed, you find yourself with even more questions? Do you ever wonder what doctors secretly wished patients would do that would make caring for you a smoother process?
My purpose in writing this post is to do two things: to provide practical tips that you can use today that will 1) help prepare you for encounters you might have with the health care system in the future…whether it’s a routine doctor’s visit or an unexpected trip to the ER, and 2) help you make the most out of your interactions with your physicians.
You already knew. Gaze unflinching, you told us to say the words.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis A. L. S.
Despite sparse questions, your eyes revealed an understanding far deeper than our answers- that with one moment, robbed were you of the years ahead, of memories awaiting, of stories belonging to you. Now lost.
Strength dissolving, your conviction remains unscathed. You savor each passing sunrise. Each caress, each step. For you know. As your legs cease to support, arms stop to comply, you still feel your child’s touch. Absorbing her love. Pretending you don’t care the roles have been reversed as you yearn to return her embrace.
As its hunger ascends, You treasure the remaining days. Every word, every smile. For you know. Soon it consumes your voice, drains your visage, until all that is left is the silence of a vacant mask. Unable to reflect your thought’s grin, your heart’s laugh, your soul tears as you blink away the moisture.
As your breaths increasingly betray you, you are not defeated, for the flames of your bruised spirit are not quenched, and you give thanks for the time you had, even as your body dims and you fade away.
Once when I was on a specialized heart failure service, I took care of a teenage boy. He had a form of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (a weak, enlarged heart), and he had a huge heart…in more ways than one.
He loved baseball, pumpkin pie, and horses. His family owned a farm, so before he got sick, he would often go horseback riding. He also loved to draw.
We—a team of five physicians—took care of him for a month while he was waiting for a heart transplant. He liked us. We liked him. So he drew us as well.
I thought he was clever. But he thought I was even more so. All because he liked my joke:
“What do you call a cow with no legs?”
That was it. He was just a great kid, trying his best to live the life given to him.
It used to be, that at the end of our visits, we would both say to each other, “Ground beef!” with a wink and a huge smile. It perplexed the other physicians, but we knew exactly what we were talking about.
It was just a silly joke. But for the two of us, it somehow meant something more.
I found out recently that he passed away. And today I found the drawing he gave me. And I wept.
One of our tasks was to visit the residents in Western Belize. While our purpose was to conduct epidemiologic study and to raise disease awareness, it was just a pleasure getting to know the community.
Also, we made sure to always take time to admire the pet turkeys.
Founded in 2013 by Phoebe Chi, MD, PhoebeMD: Medicine + Poetry is a health information and literary arts website that aims to inspire, empower, and educate through a curated mix of essential health information, uplifting personal stories, and original poetry.