Today I worked in the pre-anesthesia clinic. It is a nice change from OR routine. One of the patients was an elderly woman scheduled for surgery for an obstructed tear duct. She was accompanied by her daughter who acted as translator since the patient spoke only Yiddish.
No words passed directly between us. All communication was non-verbal. Much smiling and nodding. At the end of my physical examination and perusal of the chart I provided the usual explanations regarding general anesthesia. I wished her a successful surgery.
As the daughter was backing out of the room with her mother in a wheelchair, the daughter began a tirade about the long day and the inefficiency of the both the clinic and the ward. I was trying to diffuse the situation but I had trouble concentrating because the mother was vying for my attention. She was smiling as if to say, "Just ignore her, she gets like that sometimes."
Then she stretched out her arm to show me the tattooed number on her arm. She is a holocaust survivor. I nodded in understanding and returned her smile. As her daughter continued her whining, she backed the wheelchair out of the exam room and the mother was smiling and waving to me. In my mind's eye, she was indicating her confidence in our ability to care for her.