When I was younger I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to treat everything to “make it better.” It’s funny how that concept is ingrained in our minds even as children. Doctors can fix everything. But what we can’t understand is how to help the patients with chronic illness that have months, even weeks to live. The ones who come in after nights of sleeping on the streets. Those that beg for a toothbrush because they have no money to buy their children one.
I thought I’d come to understand how to face those emotional battles sooner than later but to be honest it still breaks my heart when I feel like I failed a patient because I couldn’t make all of their concerns disappear at once. Just yesterday I followed up with a patient who had portal hypertension, no place to call home, and trouble finding transportation to his draining sessions. After our previous appointments, I would feel disappointed in myself because I could have always done “a little more.” But yesterday after an extended appointment time where we discussed medication compliance and getting connected to a social worker among other topics, as my patient walked out the door, he smiled and said, “Thank you for all you’ve done.” I smiled back because maybe… after all… I had helped him more than I thought.
I wanted to reply back with “No, THANK YOU for teaching me that every little bit counts and that patients believe in their doctors even if doctors forget to do it themselves.” But I waived and said, “It was my pleasure, until next time.”