Thursday, August 22, 2013

Easy Life

It can be a passing comment. Or the answer to a question.

But medicine can break your heart, or crack it just a little. And it isn't always the big, dramatic moments. Sometimes a patient says something to me that is such an unbelievably loaded statement, such a deep and unguarded truth about who they are, that I feel both weighed down by it's burden and lifted up by the privilege of hearing it.


"What does her name mean?"

"It means, easy". 

I chuckle a little and smile. The woman speaking to me has perfect, chocolate colored skin. Her hair is wrapped in a regal looking, multicolored scarf. Her cheekbones are high. Her eyes see that I don't understand.

"It means, easy life. My other three children were born in refugee camps in Kenya. She was born in a hospital in Canada. Compared to the rest of us, she will have an easy life." 

Now I understand, but really have no idea.


His right rotator cuff and surrounding musculature was so badly torn one day at work that the orthopedic surgeon stated in his letter that he "abandoned the procedure" when the first repair was attempted. As the patient spoke to me I saw dozens of deep, linear, pale scars on his left forearm, the kind of scars that you get when you cut yourself deep enough to draw blood but not deep enough to bleed to death.

The patient told me about the numbness in his fingertips and the ache in his arm. About the surgical waiting list. I asked if he was right or left handed.

"I am right handed. Well, actually, I was left handed. But I went to a residential school and they forced me to write with my right hand. They didn't use very nice techniques to do so. They wouldn't let anybody be different in any way. Same hair, same clothes. They wouldn't let me use my left hand. So now I am right handed...I have a granddaughter. She is left handed. She gets to stay that way."


Lisa said...

Wow. It really is the little comments that make you stop and think, huh? FYI, I'm a fairly new reader - I found your blog this summer and really enjoyed it. I'm starting med school next week, and so I'm hoping that you decide to keep blogging during your residency, even though you must be totally exhausted just trying to keep up with life. Just wanted to let you know that you have one more reader!

Justin said...

Thanks for sharing this. Read this to my wife, and we were both pretty floored. What must it be like, to experience conversations like this on a regular basis... Keep up the great work.

Albinoblackbear said...

Thanks, Lisa! Good luck on the next phase of the journey.

Thank you, Justin. I was driving home from that day, replaying some of the conversations I'd had that had completely sideswiped me. It's easy to rush through those exchanges but man, there can be weight there if you just stop and let them sink in.

Anonymous said...

I love this! Beautiful.