Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Calling

Would it surprise you to know that I often contemplate leaving medicine? That I awake some mornings with eyes drooping and jaw clenching. And I begin the day with the promise that it will be my last.

I have sworn off this profession more times than a bad habit. I have stormed out of the office with belly churning and head swimming in a migrainous ocean.

Each time, I feel more resolute then the last. Yet somehow I remain. I sit in my little office typing away on my lap top. The phone is ringing, my pager is buzzing, and the paperwork is piling up.

Yet, I'm still here.


Howie was like a tank. His thick muscular arms were covered in tattoos. His belly usually protruded proudly over his Harley as he drove into our parking lot. Needless to say, he wasn't the kind of guy who complained.

So it was with great surprise, that I watched him hobble into my office. His cherubic face was flaming red. Sweat soaked the front of his t-shirt. His left arm wrapped around his son, and they walked in unison as if they were participants in a three legged race.

I paused for a moment as Howie got settled on the examining table.

Doc. I think I'm dying

I was amazed at how this giant of a man had been transformed into a cowering mouse. I waited patiently as he explained the agony of the last few weeks. His knees were aching. His feet were swollen. He couldn't bare to walk or move. His pain was only tolerable if he remained perfectly still.

His trip to the ER had been fruitless. He was told that he didn't have blood clots in his legs, but was otherwise given no explanations. I surveyed the situation. His knees were warm and swollen with small circles of color radiating downward. He jumped with any attempt at manipulation. His ankles were also sensitive and edematous.

I diagnosed him with gout. I faxed a prescription for prednisone to his pharmacy and requested he come back the next day. He limped out of the office unconvinced.

Twenty four hours later, he strode through the hallway towards me a changed man. He walked confidently into the room. He smiled broadly showing his stained front teeth.

Doc. You saved my life!

I was about to disagree when he unexpectedly grabbed me around the shoulders and gave me a bear hug.

I didn't say a word. I was speechless.


Sometimes I feel that being a doctor is like fighting a pit bull. You scratch and claw against the vicious opponent in an attempt to survive. And when you finally pick yourself up off the ground in victory, the dogs owner walks over and kicks you in the groin.

Yet there are few professions that give back so much. Physicians are allowed a unique window into the lives of their fellow men. We help people live; we help them die. We bear witness to all that is laid at our doorstep.

We are treated as both kings and peasants. Our rewards are fleeting but much appreciated: a handshake, a pat on the back, a hug.

Years ago my parents asked me what I want to be when I grow up. I didn't know then what I know now. This profession is a calling. A loud, disruptive, unswerving calling.

And with every breath, of every moment, of every day,

I humbly answer it.


tracy said...

Thank you, Dr. Jordan.

As one who "fantasises" what it would be like to be a Physican, you always bring me back to earth.

And, this was a lovely post!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. I don't often consider the other side of the medical coin, so it's nice to be woken up to how my doctor might be feeling.

Lovely words and I'm glad to read them.

Maria said...

I've stumbled upon your post really by accident and was not be able to just pass by without a comment. I have never known what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I've become an engineer, just like my parents. After few years of work, marriage and 3 kids I finally got it - a physician. I could never say it better than you did, why exactly. It rang so true to me! Somehow it made all the hard work I did over the past few years just to be able to apply, completely worth it. For that I thank you.

Donna RDH in TEXAS said...

one word... social workers give a lot to what your saying.. yet we are underpaid and at time underappriecated but I wouldnt change it..because I love that what I do does matter.. even it its a hug from a big ole harley dude .. likeyou got lol ..I would recommend..talking to a good social worker.. who specializes in counseling.. and grief therapy... to help debrief...

Tom Peterson said...


Tom Peterson said...

I am a Canadian CA (your version of a CPA). However I have had PPMS for the last 15 years, and have pretty much retired now. I have also been hospitalized with a gallbladder operation. They did a laparoscopic procedure, screwed it up, and then had to open me all up to clean me out. I have also had a kidney cancer operation.

And none of this cost me a penny. If I was in the U.S. I would have been bankrupt.

I presume you know about MS and chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency? (CCSVI)

I recently had to go to Albany to get a CCSVI angioplasty. Canadian doctors have forbidden this procedure.

This "Liberation Treatment" cost me a lot of money, but at least I had a choice and a chance.

I think there are pros and cons to any healthcare system. As I am sure you are aware, America spends more money per capita than anybody, but only gets so-so results.

However, Canada is going to have to change something in its healthcare system, because it cannot afford to continue the way things are now.

It is most interesting to read about your feelings as a doctor. And I suppose it is good therapy to write about issues of concern. We patients don't really get to build much of a relationship with our doctors anymore, because there is simply not enough time.

Your posts let us look a little deeper into the doctor as a human being. Which is a good thing.

I am constantly amazed by the front line people in healthcare. Having spent more time in the ER and ICU than I would like to remember, I have marveled at the dedication of all healthcare workers. Unfortunately, this dedication can sometimes lead to burnout.

Anyway, it is nice to get to "know you" so to speak.