Thursday, January 1, 2009
The Last Conversation (Pt I)
I woke up this afternoon, New Year's Day, walked out to the kitchen at which point my husband ...with newspaper in hand hollered out to me from the family room, "I think one of your doctors died." I froze on the spot at the opposite end of the kitchen... scrambling for words... as faces ran through my mind.
I managed to blurt out, "WHO?" and impatiently waited for him to answer as he looked back down at the paper. I don't know why but remained frozen in place on the tile. He was still looking at it and said, "I think you just saw him." Walking down to the other end of the kitchen, I again froze and more insistently blurted out "WHO???!!!" And he finally said the name and I have been upset ever since he told me. I darted over to read the obituary and another article that was so sweet about him.
His family, friends and colleagues, the hospital, his patients and the community have lost a fine man and doctor who seemed to have dedicated his life toward helping others. His wife was quoted in the article saying that she felt sorry for his patients. She and her family must be hurting so much and yet... she is thinking of his patients. And they will feel lost and devastated. I am taking it hard and I have only known him since 2003...I think. I was just beginning to bond to him too. I had confidence in him as a diagnostician, but I don't want to go in the medical direction right now and will save that for the 2nd part of this post.
But his patients that have had him for 30 or less years...the long term ones...I feel for them too. I am upset for him and his family, staff friends and colleagues. What a SHOCK!
Speaking as a patient... to compare... my urologist knows me inside out regarding urologic issues and you all know it has been for 3 years now...intermittently. But he has done so much work, I have been through a lot...he has been on the front lines interacting with me, being professional and compassionate and knows how I work... physically and emotionally. He knows.
I think the depth of knowledge a doctor gains from having worked with/known a chronically ill or long term patient is invaluable toward enhancing the quality of treatment... perhaps fine tuning the treatment that a new physician might miss. And they get to know the personality quirks and also that they can rely on the patient's evaluation of what is going on... in other words..they won't just blow the patient off but really listen to them.
I thought I was going to sink through the floor waiting for my husband to say the name. I am deeply saddened by the loss of this fine doctor but if it had been urodoc... well...I don't have the words to describe the grief and loss I would be feeling. My husband would have had to scrape me off the floor.
I am looking at this from a patient's perspective. Obviously...it is a much greater loss for those close to this doctor. But as a patient who has relied greatly on a physician to look out for her and trusts that she has always been getting the best possible care with a difficult case.... and has felt safer as a result of the quality care received... I truly feel for all his patients that have come to rely on his expertise as a physician, compassion and encouragement... and have developed a close patient-doctor bond.
I am so sorry for everyone... including myself. I just saw him last Tuesday... on December 22nd.
I had meant to ask him something that has been concerning me and I think is important and I valued his opinion.
He seemed quite knowledgeable and I had heard he was extremely intelligent and top in his class. I think he was an excellent diagnostician... but more about that in next post.
I just feel so bad about this.
So, when I went in for my last appointment, I finally brought his office a box of cookies and a Christmas card. For 3 years I had been meaning to write him a nice thank you note. I finally did!
I wish I had taken time to do it right and type one out. I actually hand wrote a thank you to him on the top part of the Christmas card while sitting on the exam table waiting for him to come in. I do NOT have good penmanship under the best of circumstances.
I began with that this was a long overdue thank you and how I appreciated his wonderful care. I went on to list the things he diagnosed that other physicians had missed. I said I believed he was an excellent diagnostician. And I told him that he was the only doctor that ever tells me to lose weight and that maybe the other doctors assume I know this and I do... but that I appreciated his verbalizing it and I am not exactly sure what else I said... but I know I thanked him again.
It's a good thing I can write small because I did fit a lot on that card.
I handed it to him when he walked in and told him to be sure to read it because it contained a long overdue thank you and I reminded him when he left.
After the exam... we went out to the reception desk. he filled out some things and then as he turned... I said... "Merry Christmas Dr J!"
At hearing that... he beamed a smile as wide across his face as a child seeing the presents under the tree on Christmas morning... and gleefully exclaimed..." Merry Christmas to you too. We're gonna have a WHITE Christmas! :)"
That was the last conversation.
I was supposed to see him in 3 weeks.
I feel for his staff... that I imagine will have to go in and notify patients. I assume they give referrals or make arrangements for patients to pick up their records. ???
I left the office with Christmas decorations out, Christmas cards hanging up and an office filled with Christmas cheer.
The staff must be heartbroken....
and I am so sorry... so very...very sorry.
Thank you for taking good care of me... for being assertive with me. I know I wasn't the most compliant patient... but I really was planning to be... starting this year...with my next appointment.
Thank you Dr J.