Here is a story of probably the nicest thing any patient has ever said to me. I wanted to write it down before I forgot, so I can look back at it on the days that I feel like my work doesn't matter, an attending berates me, the nurses undermine my work, or there is a sad outcome. I went into medicine because I wanted to help people. And I thought becoming a doctor was the best way for me to do this- to gain the technical and clinical skills to be helpful. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it feels like it isn't. But, I love what I do, and what I get the opportunity to provide. Sometimes it's easy to forget this, which is why I hold on to this memory, precious and vivid.
I admitted a young woman, pregnant with her first baby, at 34 weeks. She was feeling sick, and her baby's heart tracing was concerning. Both of them looked sicker within the hour, but the attending and I were slow to want to do a c-section on a premature baby. We gave her fluids, and I watched them both closely. Then, the baby's heart rate when down. I called a crash section, and with the help of the OR team, had delivered that baby before the attending even got to the hospital.
There are a few quiet minutes, in between initiating the crash and the quick ride to the operating room and swift delivery. They are precious, my one opportunity to sit calmly with a mother and her loved ones before the chaos begins. I take her hand, and tell her "Everything is okay. Your baby's heart rate went down, so we need to do a delivery now. But, we do this all the time, and can get your baby delivered quickly." Usually the panicked mother starts to cry about now. I let her know gently, "in just a few moments, it's going to get very busy in here, with a lot of people, but that's normal. We just need lots of hands to help. We are going to take a quick ride down the hall to the operating room, and I'll be waiting for you there."
This time was no different. Lots of nurses, a quick ride down the hall, me smiling at her with everything but my eyes covered by a mask. A few minutes later she was delivered, and I was stitching her up, just as the attending arrived.
The gem came later, two days after her delivery, during my morning postpartum rounds. I went to see how she was doing, and she grabbed my hand and squeezed it. She said "I just want you to know...that time you sat talking to me, when you told me how it was going to get busy, but not to worry, because that was normal? That was so calming, and I just wanted to tell you...when I think about my baby's birth, I think of you. My clearest memory of my delivery is you, sitting on my bed, in your flowered hat (scrub cap), holding my hand and telling me what to expect, and that it would all be okay. Thank you."
Thank you, dear patient.