Monday, February 13, 2006

Flashback: Surgery

Sissa posted something which reminded me of the first patient I saw who was not going to survive his illness. He was mid 30s, married, with one daughter and another on the way. His doctor told him he'd be lucky to see her born, much less grow up. And being reminded of that, I wrote the following on her blog:

The first time I saw a patient who had a death sentence diagnosis, I didn't think about him as him at first, I thought about him as the subject of a diagnostic biopsy in neurosurgery. It was only later, walking past his room and seeing him, alone in his bed, with no sign of the wife or daughter mentioned in his chart that the sadness, and alone-ness of death hit me. I wanted to go in and sit with him, say something, do something, anything which might...I don't know. Do something for him. But I didn't. He was asleep, and every time I had seen him awake there were tears in his eyes, though he never audibly cried. I wasn't sure I could take it.

It's the sort of thing I'll regret for years, probably forever. Because I don't know if he was a Christian, if his wife or daughter ever visited, or if he is still alive. Given his diagnosis (glioblastoma mulitforme) he probably isn't. Even the fact that he wasn't my patient, and that I only met him because I walked into the wrong operating room my first day on surgery doesn't make it better.

I'm still learning how to deal with my life and my opportunity to "fight suffering" as you phrased it, and I'm not sure, even being here, if it isn't possible to ignore that suffering still.

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