I did some moonlighting today, so I saw some patients who aren't normally mine.
One is a 54-ish year old guy with newly diagnosed lymphoma. He's been in the hospital for a few weeks - he says he was a terrible mess when he came in, but he looks good now. He pointed out that I hadn't seen him back then but if I had it's night-and-day compared to now.
Right now, he's 20lb heavier from water weight - though he points out that he was up 40lbs a week or so ago, so it's improving. Right now, he's yellow. Right now, his liver and spleen are riddled with metastatic lesions, though some of the MDs comment that it's looking better. Right now, his white blood cell count is in the toilet, making him at high risk for infections. He quickly points out that he's not having fevers anymore, so that's an improvement.
Right now, his 27-year-old daughter is at home, having just flown in from DC where she works. She doesn't know how sick her dad is. He has gotten a few rounds of chemo and was deathly afraid of losing his hair. He's not vain, he just wants to ease his daughter into this diagnosis. His nightmare was having her walk through the door to see a yellow, swollen, bald man claiming to be her dad. He called Patient Relations a few days ago and asked them how he can get a hair cut. He wanted it to be short (but not shaved), in case he did start losing his hair. He figured it wouldn't look as bad if it was patchy and shorter.
Whaddya know - Patient Relations called up Al the barber. I didn't know we had a barber. Apparently, Al comes in and cuts hair for those patients who can't leave the hospital. Al's daughter was (is?) a nurse at the hospital and got started doing this awhile back. Al is 82. My patient said that Al did a great job with the tools in his little black satchel, jumping over IV tubing, ducking antibiotic bags, etc. He is really glad his hair hasn't started falling out yet (it might never), and he was extremely happy to have had Al come by.
Mr. T looked at me and said, "You know, it's been a good experience, being in here." I just looked at him - jaundiced, edematous, belly full of over sized organs. His prognosis is up in the air, mostly because his type of lymphoma is so rare there's not a lot of data on it. Mr. T looked at his wife, who smiled, and then looked back at me, "I know that must be weird to hear me say, but it's true. You, the nurses, Al...it's been a good experience."
I wished him a merry Christmas with his daughter and complemented his hair cut. Then I left before I started to cry in front of him.