Jun 2, 2012

A dying mans' shame

My medical career was really rewarding, and I loved everything from IV's to x-rays.  I especially enjoyed working internal medicine.  Generally, those are older patients, and I have always felt particularly comfortable with that crowd.  

Dr. Greer was an amazing internist to work for.  It was my first job out of internship.  I began in his office as a phlebotomist extern, and that was a cluster.  I was terrible.  However, the one thing I will never forget my phlebotomy instructor saying was, "If nothing else, have confidence."  Well, I had NOTHING else, but a ton of that stuff.  Didn't seem to help with my skill.  And to be honest with you, I doubt that my confidence did much for the patients' comfort level by my 3rd stick.  One patient was unnecessarily irate when I was fully ready, got into the vein, and asked if he wouldn't mind helping since I forgot the tubes.  I don't think he should have used foul language.  It's not like it hurt or anything.  I felt nothing.  

Well, on Dr. Greer and the lead nurses' suggestion, I went onto medical assistant school.  (G-d bless Beverly Hensley,  RN, as she is the reason I loved doing what I did for so long.)  
Went to school Monday through Friday from early in the morning until noon, then went to work from 12:30 PM-5:PM each day.  I studied my tail off each night, and babysat every Saturday night for this family with two great kids, and I also got half the tuition from my Grandmother who wanted to see me succeed in something.  I graduated alpha beta kapa (not sure what that means, but I think it's something good) and wasn't tardy or missed a day of school throughout the nine month course.  My sperm donor  even drove me to school and picked me up a few days after I broke a toe and couldn't drive one week.  (The school was about 25 minutes away and in Atlanta traffic.)    

It was during my time of school and work that one night, right before our last patient was ready to leave, we got a call from the assisted living from across the street.  We saw many of their clients, and had a nice working relationship.  But this night was just not what we thought it was going to be.  The call from the nurse there said that this very elderly gentleman was in the dying process of congestive heart failure.  He refused their suggestion to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, and they finally talked him into coming across the street to us, and it was understood, between them and us, that the doctor would do a courtesy exam and send him on to the hospital.  Since I came in at lunch time each day, I was most often the one to get sucked into staying late with patients.  So, everyone left, and it was just the doc and me.  They come.  I take him back, and proceed with my most professional and newly learned terminology I can muster.  

Me- Why are we here tonight?

Him- I don't want to talk about it.

Me- Oh, that's okay, I've heard it all. (Not really, and please don't tell me that you are dying since I haven't gotten to that chapter yet.  All I knew about death at that time was that the deceased generally poops and pees on themselves and that part was really grossing me out.)  

Him- I'd rather not talk about this in front of a lady.  

Me- Well, I need to write something down.  What will Dr. Greer be seeing you for?

Him-  I got sweaty balls. 

Me- What the hell?  (No, that's not right.  I wanted to say that, but I know that's not what I said.  But wouldn't it have been appropriate?)  

Me- (for real) Is this an acute problem? (See, I learned lots of terminology in school.  Had to start using it sometime.)    

Him- Ma'am, there's nothing cute about it!  

(Acute means a recent, not an ongoing issue.)  At which point, I mumbled something and got his vitals and walked out, and just had this look on my face.  Dr. Greer smiled, and said, "What?"  I could not even answer him.  All I could do was point at the chart.  He was writing in another chart, and asked me to fill him in.  I just couldn't.  I just pointed again at the closed chart.  Curiosity got him, and while holding his spot on the chart he was working on, he flipped mine open.  I think he would have done better just thinking this patient was here for a quick once over and professional prompting to be taken to a hospital.  There are few times in all my years of working in the medical field that I can remember every moment of my time with a patient.  He was one of those for me.  

PS  I turned out to be a very skilled phlebotomist by the end of my career.  Persistence.  That's all I got to say 'bout that.  

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