Monday, January 25, 2010

Late Night Musings

She was one of the nicest patients I've had the pleasure to take care of in a long time. During the course of her visit, we chatted about her life, her past jobs, my job, and how busy the ER has been lately. She was engaging, kind, friendly, and a serenely pleasant human being.

Who happened to be stricken with a degenerative chronic condition that left her unable to care for herself. Distressed by her worsening state, and disappointed at the poor quality of care she was receiving at her facility, she made some statements that she did not mean, which necessitated an evaluation from our psychiatrists. Yet throughout her protracted wait, she was never anything but patient, nor did she ever have anything but positive things to say.

I've taken care of sick patients before. Formerly high-functioning adults who had their lives stolen from them by the ravages of crippling, devastating diseases. But for whatever reason, this particular patient shook me, saddened me, angered me. No one deserves to be sick or to die, but her particular situation left me rattled for long after we parted ways.

Odds are that we'll never cross paths again, and that our encounter will fade from her memory, and ultimately mine. But for the time being at least, I find my thoughts returning to her, imagining what her daily existence is like, and ruminating how there's really nothing that I or anyone else can do for her. Maybe that's why I find myself attracted to emergency medicine - you do what you can for those you can help and pass along those that you can't.

But every so often that really doesn't feel good enough.

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