Monday, March 21, 2005

Food for thought

It was a busy call, again. Sick patients. Didn't sleep enough last night in the callroom.
Anyway, was at rounds this morning, seeing one of our patients, who spent months in and out of a hospital elsewhere, he was sent here for 2nd opinion where our pathologist confirmed the diagnosis of calciphylaxis. My intern gave him (and family) the numbers: median survival 3 months. For another family, their world comes tumbling down.
And yet, while Adam, my intern, was talking, my mind was wandering. Partially from being exhausted and hungry. Was thinking about how rounds were dragging. Thinking about how I shouldn't have skipped breakfast. And what I should have for lunch. Where I should go for the weekend. Looked outside and saw the shining sun; wondering when I could take the bike out again for a ride. Oh, maybe I should buy that new mini iPod shuffle so that I can take it for biking.
And then I caught myself. The normalcy of my thoughts. Here I was, with my team, ruining another family's day with the news, and yet in my little world, cocooned by the perceived protection of my white coat, life was going on as usual.
Guilt. That's what I felt. One, for having 'normal' everyday thoughts in the midst of someone else's nightmare. And two, shamefully, for being grateful that this wasn't my family.
I remember when dad was told of his colon cancer in 1996. I remember thinking angrily when I looked at those around me, Why is everything still going on as it was? Don't you all know what we're going through??
Kinda like the song End of the World. Why does the sun go on shining, why does the sea rush to shore? Don't they know, it's the end of the world... ?
The thing is, we go through this every day. And give little thought to what the patient might be going through. Sure, we listen. And sure, we sit on the bed and hold their hand, and say we'll be there for them. But when we exit the room, life goes on for us.


Blogger caryn said...

kim, u can't afford to not act normal when u face this kinda thing daily... u'll burn out.. and u know, when Dad was diagnosed with cancer, although it was good to have u guys around to share the pain and fear, i really appreciated friends who acted 'normal' too (those who didn't know, or tried to act normal even when they did)... coz i was able to just 'forget' all the troubles for a moment and just be..

10:38 AM  
Blogger YeePei said...

When stuff was happening at home, I appreciated friends who acted "normal" too. :) For me, interaction with these friends was a way for me to "get away" from things for a while. So yeah, in short, I agree with Caryn.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am starting to wonder... u have been very busy everytime u go on call! Two possibilities: you are either very "hot" (term used to describe an on call doc who is always busy); OR the ang-mohs are really having BAD BAD health, despite being in the so-called "BIG BROTHER" land of USA, with all kinds of 3D-scan u name it... or all sorts of medicine u never heard of in this Boleh-land over here! ;) How ironic!

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Vagus said...

Err. This is a tertiary referral center with over 2000 physicians and 1900 beds, 90 ORs, 3 helicopters. We had over 1.3 million patients in 2002. Therefore, one is ALWAYS busy like hell oncall. I'm not sure how call is like where you're at, but for a Gen Med service this is certainly the case. How is a typical call there?
I'd say though that the health here generally is good, probably better than Malaysia despite that obesity plague in the USA. I suppose it's becoz of health maintenance and screening. I mean, how many Malaysians over 50 years with no symptoms go for a colon cancer screening colonoscopy? And how many women over 18 (or since first intercourse) go for a screening Pap?

2:30 PM  
Blogger PaulOS said...

Dr V.. it's a tough life, coz you're dealing with lives. Me thinks you were just exhausted and were taking a "brain" break when the opportunity presented itself. It's not like you don't care. Am sure your presence in itself is reassuring enough.

The fact remains, we're all human beings, you can emphatise with them, but you can't 100% sympathise with them, because the patient has only been part of your life for only a brief moment. I don't believe they expect you to fully feel their pain, but they can expect you to be civil and forthright with them. You've done your part to serve them... and with that said.. "Have Peace In Your Heart"

6:45 PM  

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