Tuesday, March 11, 2014

the time a patient made me cry

when your heart takes over your mind

i hate to say it but when you work with patients day in and day out you sort of build a numbness to some of the things you see and experience. they are in physical pain or they are frustrated for whatever reason. they're sad because of a diagnosis or they are lethargic and fatigued and there's no telling why. you sympathize for them and understand what they must be feeling or going through, but you can't get too caught up in it because you've also got a job to do. while your compassionate side wants to console people and allow them to express their thoughts and talk to you so you may gather an understanding about the person you're taking care of, the show must go on. there's a balance that needs to be met requiring you to distance yourself enough from the person to get the exam done but also make them feel like they're being cared for physically and mentally. over years spent figuring it out, you get to be pretty good at this. while i work with patients with full intention of taking into consideration their thoughts, feelings and pains, it's rare that my interactions with them stick with me after the day is done (unless you've read my facebook posts and it was a comical interaction. those stick with me forever!). in a non-cold hearted, healthcare-worker way, i'm trying to say that sympathy is frequent but empathy sometimes lacks.

but not the other day...

i had a short interaction with a patient that left me with tears in my eyes and a memory i won't forget. he was an old gentleman, around his early 80's. he came to the department with blood shot eyes and a sad look on his face. i was to do a CT scan on his head because someone reasoned that he had an altered level of consciousness and they wanted to rule out a bleed or some other explaination for the difference they saw in him. after addressing him and telling him what we were going to do, we had this exchange...

patient: something's not right
me: that's why you're here. hopefully we can get to the bottom of it.
patient: the bottom of it is that my wife isn't here anymore

good god! with those few words along with tears in his eyes, i could feel the agony he was experiencing. my heart strings were yanked at an incredible rate and i found myself shedding a few tears alongside him. i rubbed his shoulder a bit and told him that i was sorry about his wife and that i couldn't imagine what a love loss so grande might feel like. i would bet that he was right. if others noticed a change in his attention span or responses with people, it's likely that he's suffering from the greatest form of heartache and doesn't know how to function without her. we've all experienced heart pains, right? but when you've shared decades with a person and suddenly they've disappeared, you can imagine their demeanor is going to drastically change. poor guy. his heart took over his mind. i really hope that he can find happiness again. i'll never forget how quickly i empathized with him. that quick interaction is going to be a lasting memory for me. 

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