I often hear people complaining about how cold and distant doctors are.
It's always rewarding to connect with patients.
Let me diverge from the topic for a moment. The Federal government has written strict laws dealing with patient privacy. I will be purposely vague to protect the identity of the patient about whom I will be typing.
Back to the topic at hand.
See how I'm avoiding getting to the point? That's probably much of the point, right there.
I first met this patient several months ago. She'd been admitted to an LTAC at which I work (LTAC = Long Term Acute Care Hospital). She'd been assigned to our group. She was intelligent, and knowledgeable about a number of topics. However, she was in a deep depression. It turns out that that very day, one of her dogs (who she hadn't seen for over ten weeks, because she'd been in hospitals for a variety of worsening reasons all that time) had to be put down due to illness. She'd just given her family the instructions to have the dog taken to the vet for this purpose.
I sat with her for more than forty minutes, sharing stories back and forth about our dogs.
She clearly felt better as I left. It was sad, but I felt that I'd actually done something to make the patient feel better.
For the rest of our time working on her health, we'd continue to talk about our pets. Unfortunately, during her stay, later, at a nursing home, her second and last dog had also to be put down, throwing her again into a depression. I, once again, spent an extended stay with her, letting her tell tales about her dog, and how she'd been delighted when the family had brought the pup to the nursing home for them to connect. Very sad.
Monday night, I was back on hospital duty. She'd been readmitted to the hospital (it had been something over five months since she'd been home...), and looked terrible. But when I walked in the door, in a very weak voice that I could barely make out, she asked me about my beagle, and whether or not brushette still rushed to the door to greet me when I got home.
Monday night, she was transferred to the ICU. Tuesday morning, the family requested that we cease all heroic life support measures.
Yesterday, late morning, she expired.
My heart is breaking.
And people wonder why doctors are sometimes cold and distant. They are protecting themselves from the possibility of pain and sorrow.
Now I've posted it.
I admit it, I'm crying.
I know the stories of the Rainbow Bridge, and I surely hope that she's there and playing with her pets.
But it's hard.