Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Phone Call

On Friday, I had Hepatitis Clinic. I love that clinic. I'm the only fellow that loves that clinic. I'm not sure why it is so hated by the GI and ID fellows alike. I only know that I find the patients interesting, the disease fascinating and the attendings knowledgeable and fun. Most of them.

I had one patient whose wife kept calling his cell phone during our appointment. He kept answering and telling her he'd call her back when we were done. From what I gathered a) she was supposed to come to the appointment with him but couldn't because of some other family situation; b) she was going to be coming to pick him up when he was done; c) she was afraid he was going to die.

Now that last statement is humorous because people don't die of Hepatitis C when they've had it for 20+ years. Death from Hepatitis C comes on slowly as the liver starts to fail. I'm not sure why she thought he was going to die, but she was very concerned about him. On her last call, I took the phone and told her that I would have more information for her after our visit, so could she please wait and we'd call her back.

After we were done and the attending had concurred with my plan, I asked the patient if I could call his wife back. I spoke with her for about 6 minutes. She had a lot of questions, mostly not understanding the chronic nature of Hep C. I took my time and explained things to her, and she was very grateful.

As I walked the patient out to the front desk where he could check out, he said, "You know, thank you for calling my wife. A lot of doctors don't like talking to the family, so it means a lot that you called her. I appreciate that." I remembered back to when my mom had my grandma's surgeon call me regarding her operation and how everything went. How much it meant to me and to my family that he took the time. I said he was quite welcome, and that I was looking forward to meeting her at this next appointment.

It's the little things - one phone call - that can mean so much to our patients.

1 comment:

xoMeghan said...

That is SO true. My mom's oncologist gave my sister and I her cell phone number. I'm sorry to say that we actually used it more than once! When you can't be there to ask the questions yourself, sometimes the message gets confused in the translation. I am so glad doctors are remembering that the family is part of the treatment plan too. Often, I think, they can hear things that a patient can't. You're the best... not surprisingly.