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Nobody wears a white coat any more...
...a tribute to becoming a doctor.
So many stories to tell....
It's Sunday morning, and I've been up for 7 hours or so. I've driven from Fort Wayne to Indy in the darkness of the early morning, seen the moon hanging low and golden over empty fields, then eclipse itself behind clouds that rendered its light a series of brilliant knife-slashes across the sky. I've watched that same sky turn from black and star-studded to the slow dull rose-grey of pre-dawn, seen the frost on the highway signs make them dark and shadowed, felt the night creeping into my bones.
The hospital is so different, sterile, warm, lights gently chasing away all sense of time or trouble. So strange.

I watched the sun beginning to rise from the room of a patient this morning, O Best Beloved. Her blinds were slatted, dividing the view of rooftop and sky into a series of horizontal lines of light. I came in and I looked at her, and I remembered the surgery.
We opened up her abdomen, not to remove any organs or cure the cancer - returned now, and spread so completely through her body that it has choked off the flow of substance through her bowels - but to put a tube in her stomach to drain it; a tube that would allow her the semblance of drinking and eating. We opened it up and saw plaques and nodules, overriding everything. We took pictures; it was a hideous amount of growth, worth recording. You will rarely see something like this.
And you can see cancer, O Best Beloved, yellow-white, hemorrhagic, decaying as it outgrows its own blood supply. You can see it, feel it, sense it. It grows, spreads, overcomes. And she will succumb to it this time, all the chemotherapy and surgery serving only to prolong a life whose days are numbered.
We told her so, or Dr. G did, the morning after the surgery. She asked him, after he said it didn't look good. How much longer do I have? Only God knows that, he told her. But you must have a guess.
Only a few months more, most likely. I know Dr. L wants to do another round of chemotherapy. I don't think it would buy you more than a few weeks. You and your family'll have to decide whether it's worth it. I see. She looked over at the latch-hook hanging she's been making - real latch-hook, not the cheap kit stuff. A big hanging, detailed, beautiful, with caroling children on it. It's three-quarters done. I guess I'll have to latch faster then.

I stood in her room this morning, and asked her how she was feeling. I'm going to work on my latching today. I didn't tell her that the night I got home, after her surgery, I stood in the snow-damp parking lot and cried for her strength and her death. I didn't tell her that when we opened her abdomen the first thing the surgeon said was "oh, my God..." or that the incision she has only goes through her skin and fat halfway down, that half of it we didn't even finish cutting into her belly because there was no point in trying to do anything.
She's dying. She will die, in the next few months, devoured from within. But at least - tiny dignity that it is - she can have a drink of water while she dies.
2 whispers echo . o O ( ... ) O o . whisper a word
daimones From: daimones Date: December 7th, 2003 08:12 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
It's moments like those that make me realize the strength and tenacity of the human spirit. To see the suffering, to know the inevitable end, and to know that you will do this task ahead of you to the best of your ability, to spend the last moments you have engaged in something that will live out beyond you.

May I be so strong.
tyomniye From: tyomniye Date: December 7th, 2003 01:17 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)

I wonder...

Did the Dr. who opened my uncle up to remove a kidney & found the cancer all through his abdomen & organs react in a similar way? They had to close him back up, there was nothing to be done. He chose to go home and live his last months there with hospice care. I don't know what I would choose. It's not something pleasant to consider. I know it was hard on my aunt and cousins. It was very hard on my grandmother, she only outlived my uncle by a few months though. It was not a good year for my family. My cousin who's only a year older than me came back to take care of his dad. Could I do the same if it happened to my dad?
I don't think I could be in healthcare. I respect you because you care so much and are willing to see things like this day after day. Never stop caring. You're in a position to touch so many lives.
2 whispers echo . o O ( ... ) O o . whisper a word