You're not behind the desk, you're sitting in the chair next to
it. Waiting. Waiting, for what seems like FOREVER for them to come
look at you, examine you, swab, cut, bleed, sample, whatever you.
They're taking forever. You feel wretched. Everything aches,
stings, hurts. You're tired from staying up all night worrying,
hurting, stressing. You only want to know what's going on and you
feel like you're simply the only person on the face of the planet,
and no one is able or willing to help you.
I'm trying to explain what it feels like to be sick -- to be
frustrated with the status of the medical profession and confused
and angry and scared. I'm trying to explain what it feels like, no
matter how melodramatic it may be, to feel like someone else has
control over your health, what's wrong, and if and when you'll get
better. There's a feeling of being completely helpless that comes
with being sick -- when there's pain, when there's no observable
pattern or relatively easy diagnosis, or when it just seems to drag
on forever. It's a feeling that no one seems to understand -- like
being held hostage by something or someone and being powerless to
do anything about it. And it doesn't go away -- that feeling --
until there's some grasp over the problem, like some answer, lab
result, diagnosis, something, ANYTHING that seems to give some
control over the situation.
If you, as a person, have never felt this way, count yourself
lucky. But many others can't say that. Our patients likely can't
say that. They come to us hoping for understanding and compassion,
and the willingness and ability to find out what's wrong. I only
hope that they find it.
It's hard to be the patient when you're used to being the
physician. It's also hard to be a physician when you've never been
a patient. William Hurt, in a 1991 movie called "The Doctor"
illustrated just this. Having been an important, influential
physician, he finds himself with cancer -- and realizes just how
horrible of a physician (no matter how skilled) he (and some of his
colleagues) could be.
People come to us in their worst conditions. They're not always
in a good mood. They're not always understanding of our limitations
as physicians (or students). They come to us seeking help and
advice -- and of course, our expertise. Finding answers is what
we're supposed to do. It's what our training is based in and what
we've been working towards for our academic/professional
But all of that training only provides a fraction of what our
patients need from us. They need our compassion and understanding.
This isn't taught in school. It comes from within, and
unfortunately, it comes from experience.
(Image source: hopeinhealingblog.wordpress.com)
For some of us, it's been sickness that has made us this way --
or abuse, or poverty, or just LIFE. For others, it's those things
that are in the process of making them that way.
Be kind to each other this week, Everybody. Have a great
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