Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I'll Be There

After a full day of work that starts hours before the sun rises, there is nothing I like less then waking up in the middle of the night and throwing on a pair of jeans to drive to the hospital. But when I got a call last night that my patient was in the emergency room and was going to be transferred to the ICU, I knew I had no choice. The story I received over the phone didn't sit well and the consequences were dyer.

Cruising down an empty expressway on a quiet Chicago night tends to make the mind wander. Each year I find myself making this solitary trip a handful of times. And without a doubt, I never regret the decision to sacrifice my spare time to do what's right.

As I pulled into the hospital parking lot, I couldn't help thinking about Mrs. Smiley.

*

I met Mrs. Smiley years ago on a night much like this. She was new to our practice and had scheduled an appointment for the very next day. But the night before she developed a severe cough and came to the emergency room. She had been on large doses of immunosuppresants to control her rheumatoid arthritis and was told to be aware of the first signs of infection.

Her chest xray showed a dense pneumonia and she was transferred to the medical floor for admission. The nurses call me an hour later and awoke me from a deep sleep. Mrs. Smiley's blood pressure was low and her respiratory rate was increasing. I gave a few orders and climbed out of bed taking care not to wake my wife.

An hour later I was standing by Mrs. Smiley's bed and talking with her husband. The blood pressure responded to a fluid bolus. Her lungs cleared with a nebulizer. As I left the room I could see the relief flash across their eyes.

She would be discharged in a few days with antibiotics and a follow up appointment in the office.

*

Years later I still see Mrs. Smiley in the office from time to time. Although she has had her up and downs, she always seems to bounce back. Our relationship is built on trust and mutual admiration.

She is quick to reminisce about the day we met and how I "rushed" into the hospital in the middle of the night to see her. She gently chides and calls me "her night in shining honor".

We communicate easily and move from laughter to serious medical discussions without pause. If you listen closely you'll here the hidden conversation masked beneath details and pleasantries.

Mrs. Smiley says, "I have faith in you."

And I reply, "If you need me,"

"I'll be there!"

2 comments:

Dr Erhumu said...

I always have mixed feelings striking friendships with my patients as a time may come you get really attached to them and begin to feel responsible for anything wrong that may happen to them.

Diane said...

You are proof, that good Drs. are still available. Thank you for setting a great example for other Drs.