Monday, November 12, 2007


Story as told to me by an attending from his days as a resident.

I had finished looking over Patient R's most recent CT scans and laboratory work. Her pancreatitis was one of the worst I've seen, and given her condition and the state of her illness, she had nearly a 70% chance of death. She had been on the service for about a week with minimal improvement. At this rate, her prognosis wasn't looking so good.

I went into her ICU room to do a quick "once over" before moving on to the next patient on my census: checked her ventilator settings, the IV drips, and ensured that she was comfortably sedated and asleep. As I was walking out of her room, I ran into her family members coming in for visiting hours.

I stopped to give them an update on her status, the latest findings, and told them exactly what my thoughts were on her chances of survival. The husband grimly nodded in understanding, but their son, a man the size of a gorilla, didn't seem to like my report very much.

He had never said very much to me over the past week that I've been taking care of his mother. Just a simple hello or two, and a bone crushing handshake the first time I met him. Most times, he just listened to what I had to say, nodded once or twice, and then would go sit next to his mother.

Today, he stood over me and spoke to me a slow and deliberate way:

Son: You gonna fix Momma.

Me: Well, we're doing the best that-

Son: [interrupting] No. You gonna fix Momma.

Ah. Yes. And with that last statement, I understood perfectly.

The son never spoke another word during the next 3 weeks Patient R stayed in the hospital. And thankfully, she did get better and was discharged home. I made sure of that.