Monday, January 2, 2012

An Officer, A Gentleman

I wasn't surprised by the sirens. As I pulled over to the side of the road, my speedometer floated down from the fifty mile per hour mark. The first sign of sunlight was inching over the horizon. I was one of the only cars on the road.

The officer moved at a glacial pace. I imagined him tapping away at his computer similar to how a physician does as he enters a patients room. The flashing lights reflected in my rear view, blinding me. My feet shook nervously as I waited.

It was a hell of a welcome back from vacation. The night before my partner called to tell me that Mrs. Silver was in the ICU. As I listened to his report, I couldn't help but feel guilty.

Mrs. Silver was a charming eighty five year old with her share of chronic medical conditions. For some reason, I doted over her like she was my long lost grandmother. There was something about her essence that brightened my spirit every time she entered the exam room. She was like a whirlwind. Before she left each appointment, she had my nurses and medical assistants pealing with laughter.


The day I left for vacation, Mrs. Silver was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. My partner examined her and started antibiotics. Although she originally began to improve, she suddenly developed chest pain and severe shortness of breath. She was placed on a ventilator and her cat scan revealed a large pulmonary embolus.

Days later she was dying. Her blood pressure was dropping and her kidneys were failing. The family had gathered at the bedside and were waiting for me to arrive to turn off the the ventilator.

After the dismal report from my partner the night before, I barley slept. I sprinted out of bed five minutes before the alarm went off and hurried through my morning routine. Although I couldn't verbalize why I was in such a hurry, I knew I needed to see Mrs. Silver one last time before she died.


The officer eventually strode out of his car and walked up to my door. I rolled down the window and started to speak, but he interrupted me.

Are you OK?

It is only years later that I realize that my face must have been a pale shade of gray. My eyes were bulging and the sweat was starting to form on my forehead. Afraid, confused, and worried, I said the first thing that came to mind.

My favorite patient is dying!

His stared at me intently and then his gaze turned to the passenger seat where my lab coat rested comfortably. His voice was steady and commanding.


As he walked back to his cruiser, I put the car in gear and pressed down cautiously on the gas petal.

It wasn't the first time a police officer would show me a simple act of kindness,and it wouldn't be the last.

I arrived in the Intensive Care Unit minutes later.

Mrs. Silver passed quietly.


David said...

Hi Jordan. I came upon your excellent blog in a roundabout way this morning, and I'm wondering whether we might be distant relatives. My mother is Myrna Grumet of Pittsburgh, daughter of Nathan Grumet. Nathan, my grandfather, was the oldest son of Meyer Grumet, who immigrated to Pittsburgh from Galicia, Poland at the turn of the century. I've yet to meet anyone named Grumet who wasn't part of this same extended family, so I'm wondering if you are part of this same kinship network.

Cheers, and Happy New Year.

David Schwartz
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
dschwartz1965 at

kntspl said...

The Officer and the Physician, both Gentlemen.

Isn't it simply amazing how people, when dying can sometimes wait until they get they say Good-bye to those they truly treasure. It's clear you two had a special bond and I'm so glad you both were able to say Good-bye.

Medicine is an Art & Science. The words and experiences you are sharing with us is giving physicians, health care providers and patients a better understand of the Art of Medicine.