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“He basically killed me,” Sam said flatly, sitting my office. “I don’t want to talk to him.”
I nodded sadly with understanding as his on-demand oxygen hissed away each moment, like the ticking of a clock. Why would a patient want to speak to a doctor who’d missed his diagnosis? Why should he?
Marc D. Wager
When I was in medical school, more than thirty years ago, I felt I received pretty good training on how to communicate clearly and effectively with patients and families. I even remember the name of the fictitious character we had to practice telling about his wife’s demise: “Mr. Gottrocks, I’m afraid that your wife has taken a turn for the worse; I think you should come to the ICU right now.”
I was midway through my internal medicine internship when elderly Mrs. Armstrong was transferred to our service for treatment of a pulmonary embolus (aka PE–a blood clot in the lungs) after a knee fracture repair. I remember thinking, disparagingly, “Surgeons should be able to treat a PE!”
The following morning, our team rounded on our patients and hurriedly wrote orders and notes because Susan, my senior resident, and I would be in clinic all afternoon.
Dr. Robert’s office felt right to me, with a musical birdsong soundtrack, soft lighting and fresh green tea, and I had my best friend in tow: piece of cake. In this serene atmosphere, I was sure that I’d find out what to do next to finish treating my endometrial cancer.
It’s probably gone now, since my hysterectomy two weeks back, I thought. But let’s play it safe; he’s the gynecological-cancer guru.
I have never told this story to anyone.
It all started one night about ten years ago, three months into my internship. I was on call, having just admitted a man with a possible meningitis.
He now lay curled up in fetal position on the bed in front of me, looking thin and ill. Preparing to administer a lumbar puncture (a diagnostic test that involves removing fluid from the spinal canal), I gently
Editor’s Note: This week, on the eve of Pulse‘s second anniversary, we offer a remarkable piece. It is the true story of a hospitalization as told from three points of view: first, the recollections of the patient (who happens to be a physician); second, events as recorded in the medical charts by doctors and nurses; and third, the
Death is not always the same. Quantity, fixed: one per patient. Quality, variable.
Doctors see many deaths, of different kinds. This is true of any doctor, whether or not he or she is a surgeon, as I am.
It’s easier for the doctor when death is expected, following a long illness, a chronic disease. Harder when it’s unforeseen–the heart attack, the accident, the gun shot, the sudden death in a young man or
I used to be a shy woman who didn’t like the spotlight and never did any public speaking. Ovarian cancer has changed all that. Now I look for opportunities to tell my story.
I am a 62-year-old, Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised mother of two. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004. But for more than a year before that, my symptoms weren’t recognized.
In January 2003, I started to suffer from abdominal