Thursday, June 16, 2011

That Guy Almost Killed Me

He was gregarious. And joyful. And he loved me. Like some of my patients. I couldn't do any wrong. His last doctor had dropped him because he had decided on alternative medicine to treat his heart disease. But I...I accepted him where he was. I explained the positives and negatives of traditional care. I informed him of risks and benefits but respected his personal choices even though they were very different from my own.

We joked in the exam room. About the complications of aging. He wasn't afraid of death, in fact he was in his eighth decade and welcomed the idea of change. He was undaunted.

So when he came to see me the other day I was unperturbed. We exchanged our usual banter and he started to give me one of his never ending litany of compliments but the he surprised me.

"You know doc...I met a guy the other day. A young guy who had just had his chest opened up and his valves repaired. And he was complaining about his doctor....So I told him he had to come see my doctor...Doctor G."

The he paused and looked at me appetisingly and started to imitate his companions response, "Dr. G....that guy almost killed me!"

I sat stunned for a moment. It is not unusual that when you care for thousands of patients that occasionally one of them doesn't like you. Eventually you meet people that you don't gel with. Some of them accuse you. Some of them don't understand that you did all you could. Some of them just don't like you.

But as I thought more about it I started to feel a great deal of anxiety. What if there is a patient out there that I hurt. That I missed a diagnosis and no one ever told me. That the patient went to another doctor who saved his life and I totally missed the boat. Could this happen? How often?

I gently pressed my patient further but he was unwilling to give me his friends name. Unable to give me the details.

Medicine can be disjointed. How often have I caught diagnosis that other doctors missed but failed to call them and inform them. It happens quite often.

Have I been too cavalier? Have I been to confident in my own abilities?


Chrysalis Angel said...

That sounds unfortunate.

It apparently wasn't something that shook the confidence of your current patient, however. If it had been really awful, your patient would have reevaluated his trust in you.

Thinking through all of that is a good reminder to stay on your toes though. (Not that you don't- I'm not implying any such thing.) It's too bad your patient wouldn't have explained to you what happened.

Hisham Soliman said...

Hmmm... I wonder what the situation was??