Tuesday, November 27, 2007

squeeze of hope

i was totally unprepared for what i witnessed today as i did a consult on a patient admitted at the intensive care unit for multiple injuries.

as a matter of habit and practice, i first introduce myself to the patient and family members or caregivers in the room. after a brief exchange of pleasantries, i explain why i am there as well as the role of rehabilitation in the current management of the patient. and then i proceed with my evaluation before setting goals and running through the rehab treatment plan with them. it's pretty straightforward and i leave the room just as i came in, as any another doctor called to assist in the patient's care.

i think the last time i was moved to tears while taking care of a patient was when i was an intern rotating in the oncology service of the pediatric ward. back then, our group helped take care of children with cancer. it was difficult not to cry as the mother of a bald, frail, dying child related her fears and anxieties to me. but that was such a loooong time ago and i don't remember being that affected anymore. age, time and repeated exposure to many patients somehow did that to me. plus the fact that i know, as doctors, we are expected to be a source of strength and hope.

not until today. as i was about to end the consult, i asked if the family had any questions for me. my patient, who couldn't speak out because of his tracheostomy tube, communicated with me by scribbling on his daughter's pad, "doctor, doctor, will i die?"

to that, his daughter and sister laughed at what seemed such a silly question to ask, saying "of course not. no my darling, do not cry," his daughter answered, caressing his chest. i just laughed with them as it seemed he was joking.

then he continued to scribble, "you know i was in the same accident wherein my wife died." his face grimaced in pain, so severe, it seemed physical. the rest of us in the room was taken aback, unprepared for what we have just read, speechless.

his daughter could only plead, "dad, dad. tama na," as she hugged him.

i could just blurt out, trying to reassure him, "you know, sir, there is a reason why you are alive and have gotten this far." with a cracking voice, i felt i lacked conviction.

but his sister said in agreement, "and she is the reason," pointing to his daughter.

again, he scribbles, "but i cannot understand. i was there with her but i was not even able to help or protect her." his soundless sobbing rang loud in our ears.

and his daughter said, "dad, we all know that if you could, you would have done everything to do just that." another grimace, of even more intense pain, as he grasped his daughter's hand tightly, pounding his chest with it as if to say, it's too painful.

through my lumpy throat, i manage, "mahirap po talaga maintindihan at tanggapin ang mga nangyari. masakit kasi wala na po siya at hindi na ninyo siya nakikita, pero palagay ko sinusubaybayan niya kayo palagi. gusto niya kayong gumaling. isipin po ninyo na siya ay kakampi ninyo sa taas."

he looked at me and i didn't know whether he understood or he believed what i said. and i was afraid i might have said the wrong thing at the wrong time. he grimaced again but he squeezed my hand so tightly and nodded. so i squeezed his hand back just as tightly,
"kaya ninyo yan." this time with more conviction.


Blogger mama_aly said...

i guess i'm not a doctor because i easily break into tears and would be no source of hope as you have been to your patient.

thanks to people like you, the broken strive beyond their pain and weak spirits to become whole again. God bless you for your gift of healing!

Thursday, 06 December, 2007  
Blogger freckle-face said...

mama aly,
we know very well we both have the gift of tears if there's such a gift :)... you have been a source of hope and strength in a capacity that is beyond that of being a doctor. i learned too that others derive hope and strength when they feel the empathy and sincerity which comes with showing our weakness. you are a great healer. thanks sister!

Friday, 07 December, 2007  

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