Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On Call, the sad part

I sat with a patient who has just been diagnosed with cancer for well over an hour late last night, as she struggled to come to grips with her diagnosis. The news had been given to her quite suddenly, and probably less than delicately. And I felt more like a doctor than I ever have, and also more helpless. I've felt competent when I know what to do, and I've felt accomplished when my staff or residents realize I know what to do, but there, at 1am, when no one knows what to do, and the best thing you can do is hold a patient's hand while she cries and pours out her concerns for herself, for her family, and for her soul, is where I felt again, powerfully, that G-d has indeed guided my choice of profession.

I was reminded of Whittier, "the Good physician liveth yet, thy friend and guide to be" and also of Pare "I treated him, G-d healed him." But most of all, I was reminded of G-d Himself, who speaking through the writer of Deuteronomy said

Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no G-d besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.

I can't deliver my patient. I can't heal her, and given what she most likely has, neither can modern medicine. And despite her hope that G-d will heal her, which He may, He also probably won't. She was enheartening though. I struggle with how to share faith with patients, and so I let her guide the discussion for the most part, but when I made the comment that Jesus was the greatest physician, she corrected me. She said "no, He is our Saviour." I was pretty close to crying there myself.

On the way out, she said "I think you are the best doctor in the world, and you all are the best doctors and nurses in the world, and I bless you all."

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