Tuesday, June 02, 2009

More Disability Stories

I'm accumulating quite the collection of memories. A few from the last weeks stand out.

Patient #1. Woman in her 30's who drank so much alcohol in one sitting that it messed up her blood electrolytes which messed up her heart rhythm and she had a cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated but meanwhile lost blood to her brain resulting in brain damage. She now has virtually no short-term memory, can't be left alone or she'll get lost or burn down the house, can't work. Cheerful and half here, she is a victim of her own poor choices.

Patient #2. Man in his 50's who has done heavy work all his life, resulting in accumulated wear and tear to the point where he can't move without pain in his back, hands, knees. Deeply wishes he could still work, and cries throughout the exam, not from pain but from the frustration of not being able to work. This one hits me hard.

Patient #3. Five year old boy with muscular dystrophy. Mentally sharp as a tack, physically weak in the large muscles. When asked if he can walk, hops down from his wheelchair and careens across the room in a clumsy, enthusiastic waddle. "Sure!" he exclaims. I fall in love.

Patient #4. Young woman who was a passenger in a car going 75 on cruise control on the freeway. Over a rise and out of sight, an old truck full of rocks stalled in the middle of the road. The car slammed into the old truck, causing a rock fall in addition to a 75 mph dead stop. Thankfully, she and her 6 month old in utero child survived, although her face and jaw will never look the same. Life can change in a split second.


Paul Elam said...

I have to wonder sometimes how anyone does what you do. I spent many years "hearing" about peoples trauma. I could see it too, sometimes in the track marks on their arms, or in the red flush of countless ruptured capillaries around their nose. But they were soft signs, easier to put out of mind.

I don't think I could handle children in wheelchair or people whose faces were disfigured. It just seems like too much to detach from.

All I can say is you have my respect, but not my envy. I am thankful that there will be someone like you there when the time comes that I need it.

Peg Spencer said...

Thanks for the respect, Paul. There are lots of docs who see far worse. You're right; it is hard to detach sometimes, but detachment can be over-rated.

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