June 2, 2009
Today a 24-year-old patient woke up from weeks of intubation and sedation. I thought he would die. Doctors thought he would die. God clearly thought otherwise. I walked in prepared to smile at him, rub his arm and encourage him, knowing he couldn't communicate back. But communicate he did. Overnight they removed his trach and his voice, raspy but clear, asked for one thing. A big mac. Totally my kind of guy. I couldn't get him a big mac, but I thought of a substitute. His family is in Florida and didn't have the money to visit and return for a funeral. They were awaiting word on his death. So I happily called his sister, with whom I've had the pleasure of speaking multiple times. I asked her if she'd like to talk to her brother. I put my cell phone up to my patient's ear and told him to say hi to his sister. Her screams could be heard in the next bed over and tears poured out of this kid's face. He kept saying, "Jesus wasn't ready for me" and 'do you love me'. Because of the mittens on his hands, I had to hold the phone and despite the pain in my back from awkwardly bending to reach his ear, I couldn't bring myself to end their conversation. He is the same age as Patrick. And just a few weeks ago, even if for a brief few minutes, I thought my brother could be dying. My patient thought he was dying. His family thought he was dying. And he didn't. And for today and the predictable near future, he won't. They kept repeating, I love you, I love you. I promised I'd return tomorrow and hold the phone for him to talk to his little nieces. His sister uttered some uninteligible words through her tears but managed to coherantly say 'thank you' 25 times or so.
And after a long hiatus of days filled with insurance companies, grants, tapped out resources, courts, nursing homes, untimely deaths, tortuous deaths, hurting families, rehab placements, more insurance companies, IV antibiotics, coumadin approvals, pharmacy mixups, disclosure of HIV statuses, after a veeerrry long hiatus, at long last, affirmation
Affirmation of why I do this. And why I love this. And why I will not, after all, be throwing in my social work towel any time soon. The reasons to stay don't come often, but when they do, they sustain for a good while.
P.S. how quickly the Big guy responds to prayer!