Today seemed to be all about God reminding of the not so pretty side of medicine. Our team had to tell a man that his wife of over 50 years was essentially brain dead and surgery would be futile. He never questioned a single thing the resident said, and at the end of the discussion told us that he trusted our opinion. A few hours later his wife was taken off the vent and she passed away.
Then we diagnosed an extremely fit man in his low fifties with a serious brain tumor that usually carries a prognosis of 1 year or less. But he doesn't know his prognosis yet because the official pathology report isn't back, so no one wants to give him the news. It's amazing that this man was feeling just fine a week ago until he started having a few relatively minor symptoms which have since resolved. Now he will be receiving the news that he has one year to live.
Then a man who we'd just released one week after surgery came back to the ER for worsening symptoms and his poor family was just exasperated and exhausted.
I guess all this is just a reminder that medicine can cure a lot of ailments, but we can't fix it all. It's easy to celebrate the victories, but it's not so easy to accept the losses. Perhaps it's all part of the education process. As much as I hope to be able to take the negative aspects in stride, I pray that I never become immune to the feelings involved. If it ever becomes easy for me to tell a man his wife is dead or another man that he has less than one year to live, then it's time for me to leave medicine. I won't practice medicine if I can't do it with care and compassion.