Wednesday, April 20, 2005




I heard a male voice calling behind me, impatient, with a hint of underlying urgency. I stopped in my tracks and turned around to see a man half walking, half trotting up the hallway towards me. When our eyes met, he smiled broadly and started waving.

I was still trying to place his face in my memory banks when he caught up to me, his wife not too far behind him. He immediately lunged for my right hand as for a handshake, but before I could even reflexively raise my hand, he deserted the idea of a handshake and hugged me instead.

Bewildered, I initially didn't hug back, but just stood there in shock for a few seconds before my right arm automatically raised up to recognize his gesture and pat him on his back. When this man pulled away, I finally made the connection. This was Mr. K, a patient that I took care of when he crashed one night that I was on call. He had come back to the hospital for a follow up visit with his primary physician and had happened to see me.

People look different when they're out of the hospital: Showered. Clean. Shaven. Hair combed. Dressed in street clothes. Standing vertically.

My memory of Mr. K was his face when he was near death: pale, diaphoretic, gaunt, gasping for breath with his hair plastered to his unshaven face. To see him out of the hospital, radiating with health, no wonder I didn't recognize him.

I stopped my day for several minutes to talk to Mr. K. He had recovered fully and was back to his normal routine. Listening to him talk about his life and family was the high point of my day today, hearing how my actions made such a positive impact.

He said one thing that really stuck in my head, "You sure knew what you were doing."

I could feel my cheeks blushing as a smile crept across my face from ear to ear.