One of my patients

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m doing another unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. It’s been really tough so far. Like most CPE students, I meet patients I really like who are experiencing really awful things.

The oncology team explained the bone marrow biopsy to my patient, and then they left the room, leaving us to talk.

The chemo dripped and outside the window a late afternoon sun drifted in and out of clouds.

He told stories and I listened.

Stories of a loving father long dead. Of religion, Southern-style, that left him an atheist. An atheist who prays.

Stories of a young man in the big city, back in the bad old days. Of death everywhere, expecting his own death. Friends, he said, all of them, all gone. He looked hard at me, as if to be sure I understood, and said, I mean best friends.

Stories of life that moved on. A career. A good life in the big city. Dinners. Vacations. Love. The kind of love you wait your whole life for.

Stories of the latest diagnosis. Of lumbar punctures and bone marrow biopsies. He had beaten the unbeatable before, he could do it again… right?

And that’s where we left things, and ignoring my instincts that said “this man is dying” I hoped he might improve. Maybe the final chapter would be 3, 6, 9 months away?

A shockingly short time from that visit (just two weeks later?) one of my colleagues came looking for me with bad news. My patient was back, admitted this time by the palliative care service.

And so I will be there for the writing of the end of the story, a story that should be so much longer.


~ by Sophia on October 14, 2009.

One Response to “One of my patients”

  1. The man in this post died a few days later. I had the opportunity to visit with him and his partner once more before he died. He was sitting up in bed, receiving visitors and taking phone calls. In a conversation in the hallway his partner told me the doctors had given him 2-3 weeks to live. For some reason, which I still cannot explain, I told his partner that I thought the two of them should take care of anything that still needed to be done right away, because I thought the doctors were being really optimistic. I have never said something like that to a family member before, and I’m sure he thought I was crazy and rude. I thought maybe I was just feeling a bit off or unfocused because I had become very emotionally involved in this patient’s situation.

    Anyway, I found out later that by the following evening the patient had died. I guess something in me just knew… I don’t know. I’m still particularly sad about this one. So smart, so young, such a survivor… gone. So unfair.

    Rest in peace J. I hope you finally have some answers to all the questions we talked about.

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