There is no paragraph, no sentence, and no word that actually teaches you to avoid such circumstances. I have watched many movies, teachers telling med students not to get emotionally attached to their patient’s grief. In reality they hardly talk on this matter and they rarely share their experiences.
I am a human being, a sub set of the human race which has considerable estrogen in my system that fuels emotions. Minor trivial things matters, although I filter most of them but some stick to the very end of my heart. This case for instance, was very much my first.
It all started when we finished learning the examination of the cardiovascular system. I decided to go to the Cardiology ward where I was scanning reports for positive findings. He was just sitting in a propped up position. This old man, in his mid 60’s suffers from left-sided heart failure due to a narrow valve (mitral stenosis).
Whenever you start a conversation with a patient, you eventually want to examine him/her immediately afterwards. So he agreed to show his precordial area (the area of the chest, beneath which the heart is located). I actually did not need to palpate his heart because his cardiac pulsations where heaving in nature. You could see the man’s heart doing its job from the skin. On palpation, the heart thrilled. On auscultation, you could hear pan systolic murmurs (added sounds /abnormal heart sounds).
I thanked him for his co-operation and bid good-bye for the day. The next day, I went to him with some of my other friends. He spontaneously started to cry. We asked him the reason for his sadness apart from the pain that he feels with the diseased heart. He wants to live longer for his six daughters. Three of them are still unmarried; he is worried about their future. He cries some more. I tried my best to console him; I was experiencing his pain as well. Deep down under I was hoping for a cure, hoping that he will get well in time to get his daughters married. But all that shattered when the Chief Cardiologist declared “he is an inoperable case, we need to counsel him “. End of the round check up.
It takes me a while to formulate and forget things that happens to the patients around the ward. He was not going to live longer and his grief was justifiable. You don’t see much men cry but when they do its more complicated.
I felt like going back to the chief cardiologist, may be if I raised my voice, he would consider doing the operation. But I am a “nobody” right now and emotions have no role in medical science, I kept reminding myself. It’s not movie where a med student gets determined to do something for her patient that cried for his life. In reality people die and nobody teaches you to deal with patient’s grief. You have to deal it on your own.