Tuesday, June 21, 2011

eeks, I don't know where I got these images.

I heard a cardiologist
talking to a group of residents
about treating patients with congestive heart failure,
and she talked about how
sometimes even when we try all the treatments and drugs we have in modern medicine
some people
are at a stage beyond our help.

With congestive heart failure,
you get fatigue, swelling in your legs, and fluid starts to back up into your lungs making you short of breath.
It's also usually found with a constellation of
other health problems.

"I have one patient,"
the cardiologist, a doctor of the heart, said,
"We'd tried all the drugs, and she would still come in crying about her symptoms every time.
Then she discovered this "healer".
And let me tell you, we're in the wrong business,
because this guy does "ceremonies"
with her
and he charges hundreds of dollars a session!"
She cackled at the absurdity.

"But," she continued, "the patient has never been happier. Nothing has changed in her physiology, but she claims she feels a lot better."

And all I could think,
as the residents laughed at this woman gaining some peace from a "placebo effect", was

"Aren't we supposed to be healers??"

We've been told over and over again in medical school to treat the person, not just the disease.

And yet,
the prevailing culture in medicine is still
treat the physiology.
It doesn't matter if the patient is crying in your office every visit.

Don't get me wrong.
I'm not saying I'm there.
My "practicing of medicine" in this clerkship year of medical school,
mostly just involves
trying to remember the right questions to ask so my attending won't yell at me when I tell them about the patient.
But I hope one day
to be more like that "healer"
and less like that cardiologist.

"It's not one thing that takes away pain.
Sometimes it's herbs. Sometimes it is having someone take your hand.
Sometimes it is telling somebody something wrong you have done and letting them take the weight of it away from you."
-Juniper, Monica Furlong

"The fact that people were attentive to his body
does not compensate for their ignoring his being."
-Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

1 comment:

  1. I know I say this a lot, but I just can't imagine doing the stuff you are doing every day. It's amazing to me, and it's beautiful to read these thoughts as you go through the process. You're a wonderful caretaker already.

    (I sent you that first image from this blog, though it's uncredited here as well: http://leloveimage.blogspot.com/2010/05/you-are-here.html)