Monday, November 15, 2010


I immediately recognized the women as she walked into my examining room. She was petite, pretty, and she couldn't hide the bulging underneath her fall jacket which gave away her late term pregnancy. She was accompanying her boyfriend who apparently had suffered an injury in a mosh pit at a concert a week ago and needed his sutures removed.

"Lisa....Lisa is that you?"
She looked at me with a haze of discomfort and concentration. Her boyfriend (who had been my patient for years) looked on curiously.
"Remember...we used to be friends in High school?"
Actually we had dated for a tumultuous month and then she swiftly broke my heart. That was fifteen years ago. I was an awkward teenager at best...she was my first girlfriend.

Although she assured me that of course she remembered...I could tell by the blank look on her face that neither my name nor my face had brought back much recognition. Amused I chatted comfortably with them as I removed her boyfriend's sutures. Occasionally sprinkling in references to our past and previous friends.

They left as quickly as they came and that would be the last time I would see either of them again. But it wouldn't be the last time I thought about Lisa. Our at least not about her specifically but more about what she represented.

You see...being that I have only dated a few women in my life each of them has left a lasting imprint. For better or worse I remember details....feelings....moments. My dearth of experience serves to magnify the few memories that I have.

On the other hand....for Lisa I was probably one of a number of relationships that neither lasted long nor held extraordinary significance. A normal person may date often before they settle down with that special someone.

And this...this made me think. How often had I made an imprint on others....been part of an important memory..and not even been cognizant of it.

As a physician I am often involved in my patient's lives at critical junctures. How many times have I walked into a room and told a wife that her husband is dying? How many times have I told a suffering patient that there is nothing more we can to do (at least to cure)? How many times have I told a husband/wife/father/child/daughter that their loved one will live?

In my case, I have these conversations so often that they no longer stand out as particularly significant or memorable.

But to my their families...they may never forget the face and actions of the doctor that day....

the day they were given the news that forever changed their lives.

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