Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sofia Was A Win

Sofia was a win.  She came to my office because she felt that her previous doctor was not careful enough.  And indeed, upon perusing her past medical records, I noticed a blip on her cat scan that he had failed to follow up.  Months later after surgery and chemotherapy, she returned with a broad smile on her face.  The oncologist and surgeon told her that I saved her life.  They explained that the only reason she survived this cancer was because of such early detection.

I basked in the glow of Sofia's success.  As physicians, we face death and destruction on a daily basis.  It feels quite gratifying when outcomes are better than expected.  Over the years, and many visits, we formed a bond based on trust and familiarity.  We struggled with some issues, and sailed through others.

It would have never occurred to me to describe Sofia as anything other than a highly satisfied patient.  So when I decided to change practices and physically move twenty five minutes north, I had no doubt that she would follow me.  After all, I had one hundred year olds willing to hobble along on their walkers to make the extra trip.

I remember the last time I saw Sofia in the office.  She took my new business card and told me that she would call in a  few months.  She never did.  Eventually, realizing her absence, I left a message on her voice mail.  Several calls later, her husband picked up and explained that the twenty five minute drive was too far.  She would rather see one of my old partners at my previous location.  I was stunned.

There are dark times in medicine.  Times when I sit in my office long after all the patients and staff have left.  Alone at my desk in the solitude, I occasionally torture myself with the existential calculus of a life lived in service.  I tabulate the wins and losses in neat but strikingly asymmetric columns.  Everybody dies eventually.

Years later Sofia's face often comes to mind. 

With a pang of sadness it always ceases to be professional,

and becomes overwhelmingly personal.

No comments: