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Oct 30, 2007

Playing Doctor

Today I saw a real patient. A real one! And he was alive, too! AND nothing I did changed that! Thus, today was a success.

What remains to be seen is how much of a success it was. This man had an interesting problem but was otherwise pretty healthy, which makes writing about him much easier. I spoke with him and his wife for over an hour this afternoon and then poured over his chart for another 45 minutes to make sure I understood everything I could about him. This may seem a little overzealous to you, but, remember, I am very new at this and don't know what I'm doing. So I have to make sure that it doesn't look like I don't know what I'm doing.

Two "funny" things happened while I was talking to and examining this patient. Interestingly, both involve religion. First, I asked the patient how he felt about being in the hospital and having such a serious disease. He told me that he never felt worried for a single moment because he knew that the Lord wouldn't let anything happen to him. This bothered me because I don't believe him. I think he's hiding behind his religion so he doesn't have to face his problems or the prospect of dying. I mean, the patient had two major surgeries following a life-threatening diagnosis - that is something happening to him. Clearly, it is important to have something that comforts you in difficult situations. However, it is important for me that comfort not cloud reality.

FYI: I always have this reaction when people say, "there's no point in worrying about it because God has already taken care of it". To me, these statements simply don't make logical sense. Just because someone/thing else might have dealt with the problem does not remove the worry. Especially when you're talking about someone/thing as wily as that Christian God figure. Christians are always dismissing unfortunate or sad things and calling them "God's mysterious ways". I didn't mention my feelings to the patient, though. He has enough to deal with.

The other "funny" thing happened while I was trying to listen to the patient's lung and heart sounds. My patient shares a room with another man, who is much sicker. Today he was given last rights. And he was wailing and thrashing around. (totally not reverent, I might add. The chaplain who delivered them kept fussing at the patient, telling him to be reverent in his last moments, BE REVERENT!! I half expected him to start cursing at the patient because he was so frustrated.) Needless to say, this made it very difficult to hear breath and heart sounds. My patient didn't even seem to notice all the commotion happening a few feet away from him. I couldn't concentrate.

The whole experience was really cool and did two things for me. It reminded me that I won't always be stuck in classrooms staring at books. Also, it reminded me that I will be expected to know something when I get to that point. On that note, I think I'll go read some Pathology notes.

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