Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Gift

A month ago, a 12 year old boy needed ultrasound guided drainage of Perforated Appendicitis with Abscess. This invasive procedure often requires sedation and I was sent to the radiology suite for that purpose.

I talked to the patient and to put him at ease I asked him what movie he would like to watch during the flight. He eagerly wanted to see the latest James Bond movie (I thought 007 was retired!). I told him I'd do my best.

The procedure went well. In recovery the boy was very agitated and complained of abdominal pain. The parents were in tears. I prescribed pain medication and asked the patient to breath slowly and deeply (a great meditation and auto-hypnotic technique) and explained that he would feel less pain.

This was at the end of Thursday and I was eagerly anticipating joining the rest of the family for a long weekend at a hotel near Jerusalem. Before I left the hospital, I went back up to Radiology to see how the boy was. The father seemed more worried than ever. Despite my desire to leave, I answered all his questions to the best of my ability (the surgeon could better answer most of his concerns, however at that point in time I was most available). After about half an hour of discussion, the father seemed somewhat relieved.

When I got to the hotel, I called the hospital. The boy was back in the pediatrics ward and was no longer suffering from pain.

A few days later I again met the father at the local cafe. He was all smiles and said that his son was fine and was being discharged. He thanked me and I went to work.

This week, when I returned to work from sick leave, I was given a package. It was a letter of thanks and gifts. The package included a very portable 3 book set of the Mishna and a silver bookmark. I have never received such beautiful gifts for just doing my job. This gift means quite a lot to me. Among the changes in my life this past year, is an interest in the sacred texts of Judaism, and I have begun (albeit sporadically) to study the Talmud with my local Chabad Rabbi (who, in my humble opinion is a genius).

However, the accompanying letter is very touching. Here is a (very) rough translation:

Dear Dr. L,
On Thursday xx/xx/09, my son was brought to the ED because of abdominal pain. The diagnosis of Acute Appendicitis with Peritoneal Abscess was made in the ED and within an hour Prof. K and Dr. N performed an invasive procedure which saved my son's life. This procedure couldn't have been performed without your dedicated help. Now, having been discharged from the hospital, is the time for giving thanks:
"...you are charged day and night to remain by the side of a patient in distress at all times and all hours...you have been taught to understand the heart and soul of the patient and lift his spirits with understanding and the love of humanity...
So it is written in the Physician's Oath (the Hebrew version. Here is the original with the biblical references. -QL)
At times, in life, events occur which bring into focus the meaning of the word: humanity. So it was in this case.
Deeply stirred, frightened, unable to speak, I watched as the doctors worked calmly with determination to save my son, and again understood the sanctity of your work and especially your humanity.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the dedicated treatment and for literally saving the life of my son. Blessed is the man who has known you.
In the tractate Sanhedrin (from the Mishna - QL) it is written:
"He who saves one soul - saves an entire world."
On behalf of the entire family, please accept this humble gift.
I will end with the 8th blessing of the Amidah:
"Heal us Lord, and we will be healed, save us and we will be saved, bring complete healing for all our illnesses, for you are a compassionate healer."

With Infinite Gratitude,
The L. Family

I called the family to thank them for their generous gift. The son answered the phone. When I identified myself he said that I had done a poor job because he didn't see the James Bond movie. I apologized and assured him that it was much more important to be healthy again.

He then passed the phone to his father. I thanked him for the gift. He said it was only a small token of appreciation. I assured him that it was much more than that.


Baila said...

Sandman, that was a beautiful, well-deserved note of gratitude; one that patients and their families everywhere feel, but cannot express so eloquently. G-d is the ultimate healer, but the way you doctors do His work is amazing.

SeaSpray said...

Oh Sandman! What a magnificent thank you... in every way! And beyond the tangible... is the knowledge... that they were so grateful, that they were moved to write such an eloquent and stirring letter.

I have one extra special doc, the 2nd urologist who has seen me through most of the uro issues... and I have given him and staff the nicest notes and most food over any other docs.

But my letters don't compare to your patient's masterpiece. And the gifts are lovely and thoughtful.

I wouldn't know what to give my doc that would have special meaning.. but if I did..I would have. he has stood out as one of the best Drs I have ever had and taken such good care of me as a patient. as I wrote in the post.. he has been like an anchor through the scarier times. I don't think I ever told him though.

i agree with Baila...That God is the ultimate healer. I think he works through the hands of physicians...that they are his instruments on earth to facilitate healing.

Thank you for your kind comment to my post. I left you a comment in response.

I love that patient's thank you letter. :)

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