Thursday, November 3, 2011
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.
Posted by Jordan Grumet at 12:54 PM