Notes

MY PATIENT at the Medical ICU (MICU) liked writing notes. He was intubated when he came in, so I never really got to hear him speak. He relied mostly on hand gestures, but even those had their limitations. His wife had a brilliant idea: maybe he could write things down instead. Every time I dropped by his bed, I saw a notebook and a black marker pen beside him. I would ask him a question. Slowly he would jot the answer down.

I knew he hated the discomfort of having an indwelling catheter inside him for days because his note echoed frustration and anger. I had to explain to him that was what he needed because we wanted to monitor his urine output. When he experienced shortness of breath, he would write down, "Naghihingalo na ako" (I'm gasping). He was my patient for my two-week stint at MICU, and I became rather close to his family, especially to his wife and daughter, who would always ask me how he was doing.

A few days ago I learned that he had died. Crying, his daughter showed me a note my patient had written just before I left MICU. "Naalala mo ba ito, Doc?" she asked. Of course, I did. How could I forget?

A letter from my patient

I still don't know what I did to merit that kind of approval from him, but somewhere along the way, despite my own shortcomings, and by God's grace and enabling alone, I realize that I must've done something right.

8 thoughts on “Notes”

  1. I found myself tearing up a bit as I read this entry, Lance. I've got one friend who's a newly licensed doctor and another (aside from you) in med school; both have been telling me about their own experiences. I also have parents, uncles, and grandparents whose age is really catching up to them now, in the form of various aches and ailments.

    I'm really thankful that there are nurses, doctors, and would-be doctors like you who really care about doing their work well. More power to you in your studies and eventual practice.

  2. Lance, thanks for this. Sobrang nawawalan na ko ng gana magduktor, but I am just keeping it to myself. I've had similar experiences also but dun ko napansin na hirap ako mag-comfort sa namatayan. The last time was in Pedia, where my patient with leukemia had an IC bleed rendering her brain dead. That time, di ko ma-contain yung luha ko everytime I am trying to comfort the family. Mas ginusto ko pa tuloy na utusan na lang ng resident so as not to be on that scene. As I bid farewell kasi tapos na 24hr-duty ko, dun ko naramdaman na gusto kong umiyak ng umiyak while walking away.

  3. naiiyak ako na mabasa...small acts of kindness, we can't really tell how big it is...just continue with what you've started doc using your profession as a profession of who your Savior is...

  4. Whatever it was that you did to this patient, and to all of your other patients, Im so proud of you Lance. You'll really make a good doctor!

    I sure hope you still remember me....Ma'am Butch of MBB and mom of Doc. Gelza. :)

  5. Of course, Ma'am Butch, how can I forget you? Thank you for dropping by. You used to accommodate our requests to have some of our stuff photocopied at the Albert Admin office back in the days! Haha. Ma'am Gelza has made my IM rotation very meaningful and exciting, and she looks so much like you!

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