Friday, April 2, 2010

April Fool's Day...

A phone rings at five am, "Doctor, your patient just died... just wanted to let you know." After 25 years of dealing with phone calls like this, you roll over process the name and get back to sleep. There is a distance that doctors are trained to keep... a distance that protects them yet isolates them. Part of my journey has been the destruction of that wall, that distance that numbed me from death and thus from life itself.
This year, April Fool's day was meant to finish the breakdown of that distance.
My father was in the hospital in critical condition, my mother had eye surgery and was having difficulty getting clearance due to her end stage Sarcoidosis.
It isn't until I walk onto the Palliative unit and enter the room that I realize the enormity of that simple early morning conversation.
My patient... a woman I have helped fight back pain for 4 years, who has survived 10 years after a diagnosis of end stage colon cancer has died. I sat with the brother and my nurse (who btw I noticed was treating me as family not doc) and we talked about what a great woman she was and how just plain cool she was.
I missed her and I cried.
Several hours later I received a phone call from the ER about a woman who was one of my private patients... a 53 year old woman had just had massive cardiac arrest and died. I barely considered her a patient. She was that healthy... and now she was dead, oh, and could I please come and sign the death certificate.
After several minutes of stunned silence I put down the phone... and I cried.

“Death, the one appointment we all must keep, and for which no time is set”
Charlie Chan

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