Thursday, February 24, 2011

Passionate Physicians

I had a surprise a few weeks ago at UAMS. Dr. Harrington (who was Randy’s palliative care doctor) spoke to our CPE group. It was good to see her, but when I tried to tell the group how much palliative care in general and Dr. H, in specific, meant to me, I cried almost as much as I talked. That was the first time in over a month that I have cried about Randy, so it surprised me. However, it was OK, as the CPE group is certainly the right place for tears. They surrounded me with hugs and pats – these people really know how to be a compassionate presence ☺

Palliative care - more than hospice, in that it is comfort and pain relief even in non-life threatening situations. I look forward to the day when it is discussed openly with patients in early stages of disease, so that they can prepare for the end stages. Palliative care focuses on quality of life (physical, social, spiritual and psychological - all are included) and differs from person to person, as we each uniquely define quality of life. What a blessing it is to have this as part of our "official" medical care, even though it has a long way to go to be an expected service.

Then last Tuesday, I saw Dr. Hutchins (Randy's oncologist at UAMS). I was visiting patients and she was making rounds, with an entourage of fellows, residents, etc. I was updating my chaplain visits on a computer outside a room when I heard her voice. She went into a patient's room and I finished my updates, then headed down the hall. She came out at that point and we looked at each other. I saw recognition in her eyes, but since she meets so many people, I said "I am David Moore's wife. I am in the CPE intern program here." It was nice, because she smiled big and said "Thank you for clueing me in. I knew you, but not with a badge. (I was of course, wearing my UAMS badge, prominently displayed.) It is good to see you." I wanted to give her a big hug, but didn't, since, as I said, she had an entourage with her. Thinking back, I wish I had, because it wouldn't hurt for the people with her (learning from her) to see how wonderful it is for a physician to be so loved and appreciated, not because she "fixed" the patient, but because she showed compassion in every stage of that patient's treatment. If I had talked to her very long I would have cried, because of the memories and because she is such a kind and caring lady and doctor, and that is a huge blessing for all of us who meet her.

I often think of Dr. Colman (neuro-oncologist at MD Anderson) as well. He was brilliant, but he took time on every visit to answer all of our questions (and Randy, being the smart and inquisitive internet-researcher he was, always had several!). I think of Dr. Colman's last phone call to me, the day after Randy died, and how obvious it was in his voice that he was sad. I don't particularly remember the words he used, but I clearly sensed his feelings. I know I thanked him for the extra quality and quantity of life he had given Randy, and I know I cried a bit, but I hope he felt as comforted at the end of the conversation as I did.

I may write often about sad memories, but not because they make me sad. Instead they make me feel so blessed, as Randy had such wonderful doctors and nurses in his fight. I know he was a popular patient, as he kept that crazy sense of humor, but regardless, they would have been exceptional and loving and kind - that's just who they are. God bless them, everyone.

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