I Missed His Birthday, Again
I think a lot about quitting medicine lately. A lot.
Then I have a morning like yesterday morning:
I see a patient I've known for more than twenty years, caring for him through an adrenal tumor, a major gastrointestinal surgery and now renal failure, for which he needs a kidney transplant. As we review his last set of labs (stable, thank goodness), he is sanguine, hopeful. He may have found a donor, and he might make it to transplant without dialysis. He has to live--he has a wife and a child.
Next, I mess up my schedule entirely by spending more than half an hour with a patient who only came in to talk--not about herself, really, but about her husband who has just been diagnosed with a probably fatal illness. I break all of my own rules and tell her what I'd do if this were my own husband--how to push him to get emotional support, where to go for a second opinion….When she leaves, we hug like sisters.
The bull between whose horns I perch is life.
The bull between whose horns I cling is death.
Tossed on these horns who bleeding dies
Or doesn't die but bleeding, hanging on,
rides, and the bull charges through late winter
as through an icy pane and into spring.
Shards shower in its wake.
We need to make a place for the dilemma,
sweep the shards and gather up the pieces,
clear out a space for puzzlement and grief.
I visited the hospital, came home,
tried, failed to sleep, tossed in confusion,
Fredy El Sakr
"Help!" I yelled out of our open apartment door.
I was seven years old, and my family had recently emigrated from Egypt to the US. We'd been feeling elated that week because, after months of interviews, my father had matched into a pediatric residency.
That morning he'd awakened feeling nauseated. My mother and sister went to buy some soothing food. I noticed that he'd vomited in the bathroom; now he was feeling worse.
He knew it was serious, because he put on his brown leather jacket and lay back in our blue recliner, waiting for my mom to return and take him to the emergency room. Now and then he'd look at me reassuringly with deep, dark, pain-stricken eyes, but he was clearly in agony. Then, as I watched, his eyes rolled back in his head.