Uncomfortable Moments

Sometimes there are uncomfortable moments we must overcome.  For instance… I was scheduled to do a “re” pap for one of my colleague’s patients. This in itself is awkward – who wants to come in a second time for a pap because the 1st doctor didn’t get a good sample ?!  The pressure’s now on for me- to do everything perfectly.  Then I saw who the patient was, a 50 year old named irene, and my nerves plummeted.  The last time I had seen this particular patient was several months ago in the hospital.

Her mother, betty, was one of my favorite patients.  A few months ago betty had come into the hospital on a night I was on call.  Tho supervising a younger intern, I stopped in the hospital room that night to double check everything.  This very sweet, energetic 78 year old was having diffuse abdominal pain. The scans done in the ER had pointed to diverticulitis, an infection in the bowel wall.  We’d started the right medicines and were keeping her comfortable with pain pills. I can still remember that night as irene and I helped betty shuffle to the bathroom, her gown gaped in the back and her two classic gray braids adorning each side of her face.

The next morning I came to work and was greeted by a cement wall.  That’s what it felt like hearing about the sudden death of betty overnight.  What had happened? I had left her stable, and so unexpectedly she was gone. It had happened just an hour or so before, thus I went, wearing my heart on my sleeve, into her room, packed full of family members.  Tears streamed from my face from shock, and true sadness. Irene came to me, “what happened Dr.C?” That’s right…the doctor, always responsible somehow. I felt fault being handed to me, disguised as concern. Though fault was not warranted, it was easy to take from them, because they were anxious to give it away.

And here was irene again, in my office. I was seeing her for the first time since her mother’s death. And of all things, I had to perform a “re” pap! Surely this gets some sympathy as truly uncomfortable!

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