That’s half the story
Friday August 24th 2007, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Life

Reading Sonya’s comment got me thinking that she’s right, but there’s a flip side to it: the medical personnel who take care of us are, by and large, people who were drawn to the profession wanting to spend their days helping others. But in real life, that translates to their being immersed in the problems and troubles and pains of their fellow men, day in and day out, and that’s got to be hard at times. It about broke my heart to read one doctor’s lamenting to Dr. Rachel Remen in one of her books, that, if they make a difference to their patients, “The patients never tell you.”

Think what a difference a thank you can make.

I have a close friend I grew up with who was hospitalized for awhile, who felt his doctor had gone well above and beyond for him. He wrote the attending a note telling him that, and how grateful he was for it. He was quite surprised to get a long letter back, thanking *him*.

When I was in Stanford Hospital four years ago in critical condition, there was one resident whose comings and goings I mostly slept through, but I did see him a few times. We never had any kind of a real conversation, it was mostly just him reciting the list of meds I’d be transfused with that day. One of which was experimental, after the normal ones didn’t work; I guess that helped make me a little more memorable.  Surgery wasn’t really an option–I had too many other things wrong.

So. Quite a few months later, I was at a concert of the Harvard Glee Club, and the director, at the end, invited all former members of the Club to come up and join them for a rousing final number.

And I saw a suddenly-familiar face stepping forward out of the audience a little ways back. Hey!

I found him in the crowd afterwards, and thanked him for taking good care of me. He couldn’t quite place me… And then suddenly it hit him. “OH! YOU’RE the CROHN’S patient!!!” Yes. He looked at me, standing there, just looked in amazement: I was well, I was standing on my own two feet, hair brushed, wearing something infinitely nicer than a hospital gown and enjoying a night out at a concert, something that, the day he’d met me, there seemed no hope could ever happen again.

And there I was. With a big smile on my face, then laughing as he recited that last list of meds again from memory, and telling him thank you for looking out for me.

That young doctor went home with a spring in his step and all being right in his world. This was why he did this. This is why he put up with the hassles of it all. This was what it was all about. Seeing people becoming well again and rejoining day-to-day life, if he had any possible say in the matter. And I’d remembered him! He was absolutely radiant. I watched him heading off, beaming, and I know I was, too.

Tell’em thank you. Make a difference to them, too.

And that will make a difference to all the patients who come after you.

11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’m so glad you wrote this post. When I had multiple heart issues a few years ago, I gave my cardiologist a very nice bottle of bubbly once I was out of the hospital. I left it with his nurse after an office visit, as I thought he was probably off saving another life. But, as I was leaving the clinic, he caught up with me in the hall and said how much he appreciated the fact that I appreciated HIM.

Now I work IN that clinic, and we share a nice friendship. When I had my hysterectomy a couple months ago, he came and checked on my ICD in the recovery room.

It’s amazing how a small gesture like a bottle of champagne and a note has made such a difference in the patient/doctor relationship.

Comment by Amanda 08.25.07 @ 11:13 am

Hey Mom, look at what Megha found (and sent me to, saying that it reminded her of you!)

Comment by Shelle 08.25.07 @ 5:26 pm

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’ve had several new readers that left comments in the past couple of weeks. It’s nice to click back on the namelink and see who y’all are.

You have a very nice blog.

Comment by Dee 08.26.07 @ 6:19 am

Thank you for reminding us to show our appreciation for those that have helped or made a difference in our lives. I am thinking right now of a very special teacher that went out of her way to help my oldest. I will just have to make sure I let her know.

Comment by Sonya 08.26.07 @ 11:45 am

I missed you Alison while we were gone!
What a lovely post! Good advise too….Everyone wants to know that they are helpful and appreciated!
A little bit of gratitude goes a long way to brighten someones day!!
I relish this little saying by Meister Eckhart…”If the only prayer you say in your entire life is THANK YOU…it is enough”.

Comment by Sheila E 08.26.07 @ 5:30 pm

You are so right about recognizing the doctor. My best friend is a doctor, a hospitalist, who works with very ill folks. She works long hours, teaching interns and residents and taking care of patients. Sometimes she is exhausted and just calls me to cry about the horrible situations she encounters. Not the illnesses, although they are bad, but maybe the homeless person who has no one to take care of her when she leaves the hospital, or the person being kept alive for the sake of her feuding children. I am a listener for her, and she is one of those doctors who really cares. Saying thank you would make all the difference for her!

Comment by Joanne 08.27.07 @ 1:01 pm

My hubby sure appreciates any thank-yous he gets. One patient brings good pastries, and he loves those (brings them home, too, yum!), and most send nice notes that he keeps in a drawer for bad days.

After my big surgery last fall, I made my surgeon some socks, and he sent the nicest note. He’d worked so hard to get it fast and get it all and leave a nicer scar that I just had to make him something.

I should give my doc a nice basket of goodies or something. She’s on maternity leave right now, so maybe something for the baby. She’s an old friend from residency.

Comment by Carina 08.27.07 @ 2:20 pm

Alison, this post brought tears to my eyes. I spent the better portion of 20 years of my life as a neonatal nurse–an area where we were fortunate to receive frequent, if not daily thanks from families, for being the “angels” who saved their precious babies. I always appreciated their kind expressions at the time they were offered, but now that failing health has kept me away from the bedside for 10 years I *really* treasure all the good things families have shared with me. The little plants are now tall trees, the framed pictures fill scrapbooks and adorn my office walls, and the other gifts are lasting reminders that I made a difference in someone’s life. I needed those reminders during some long dark periods as I fought to regain control of my body and learn how to live again. Now that I’m more likely to be the patient than the nurse, I try very hard to make sure all the members of my health care team (and it is *my* team) know that I care about them and really appreciate the exceptional care I’ve received. A big smile and a Thank You are never wasted 🙂

Comment by beadntat 08.27.07 @ 7:09 pm

Thank you. I really appreciate these comments.

Comment by AlisonH 08.28.07 @ 12:05 pm

Absolutely. I am a pharmacist and as such deal with many problems people have every day. The best day in my 17 years so far has been the lady with the migraine that I spent a good 45 minutes talking to and making some suggestions. She came back a few months later and said that I had cured her headaches! Something the specialist had not managed to do. Made my year, I tell you!

Comment by Carol 08.28.07 @ 6:59 pm

[…] gown and Eau du IV, she didn’t remember me at all.  I was rather hoping for something like this, where that doctor was just ecstatic at seeing his patient doing the happily-ever-after, but hey.  […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 03.14.10 @ 12:29 am

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>