Friday, January 20, 2017

Us and Them

I think about her from time to time.  More often than I should.  Being mere acquaintances, there is a certain frequency that goes above and beyond coincidence.  I contemplate what it must have been like working as a second year resident in the ICU (I was an intern at the time). Getting a severe headache and wandering down to the emergency room in a daze.  Strangely similar to what happened to my father.  But she didn't die.

Maybe worse.  She was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, a uniformly fatal brain cancer.   She suffered through a stay in the same ICU she was scheduled to cover for the month.  She tolerated surgery and chemotherapy.

She married her boyfriend during a prolonged stay in rehab.  Her head was partially shaved in the wedding pictures.  And one day, she showed up to round with our team on my second year rheumatology elective.  She stayed with us the whole month.  Some days she worked the entire shift, others she became fatigued and left at noon.

We laughed, we learned.  Mostly we pretended she was no different than any other resident.

I assume she died long ago.  Sadly I can remember her face, but no longer her name.  The  years have erased much.  As I said, we were never particularly close.

In retrospect, we were fooling ourselves pretending she was like any other resident.  That day in the emergency room she ceased being one of us, and became one of them.  The sick people.  The people we have dedicated our lives to treat and care for.   The people we keep at arms length.

Pain and suffering are tolerable as long as there is separation.  Us and them.

It works for the most part.  But I can't help daydreaming that maybe she was one of those few percent who survived.  That she has a family and a busy rheumatology practice in some spectacularly boring suburb somewhere.

That she came back to us.

Or that we learned how to be better at being with them.

I really wish I could remember her name.

I think.


Anne Williams said...

Thank you, Jordan. Please keep writing and sharing your thoughts and memories.

Old FoolRN said...

WOW..Brought tears to my eyes.