Remembering that our patients are people


After I saw that person on the ground by Accident and Emergency waiting to be seen, I know that I had to get out of this field..

-Dr. X, Family Doctor

What does it take to be a real doctor?

Sadly I have witnessed too many ethical and moral violations in my brief time in medicine. I have seen nurses and doctors laugh at patients. I have seen the helplessness of a mother staring at her dehydrated baby in her arms. I have seen a father having to fight for a bed to keep his leukemic son, because there was none left. But worst of all, I have seen people travel miles to come to a hospital, only to die while playing this ridiculous waiting game to be seen and triaged.

The emergency room is completely understaffed, the operating theater is a joke, reusing single-use items, the overall standard of care is poor at best, the pharmaceuticals are all imported therefore completely vulnerable to fluctuating markets resulting in poor availability of medicine that SHOULD be used daily.. The list goes on.

Moments like these really make me wonder if this is truly a field for me. I honestly believed that by joining the ranks of the world's healers, I would inherit, no, deserve a place among those practicing the oldest tradition on earth. I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way, medicine became more businesslike and eventually, I am now convinced that only the rich can survive. The poor will access to second grade health care at best.

I'm glad to have met you

Which is why I'm very grateful to have met a certain person who reminded me the beauty of medicine. This person who will not be named here, though unobserving of me, did not go unobserved. She approached the patient with a smile. She asked what was wrong. She tried her best to comfort the patient while the doctors pretended not to hear. It was this kindness that detected an elderly gentleman in respiratory distress. He had a history of COPD which means he suffered from chronic hypoxia. His respiration drive switched and too much oxygen now depresses his instinct to breathe. Here he was gasping away, and all the doctors oblivious to his suffering. Right under their noses, not even a few meters away. All it took was a kind heart and a simple question "Are you ok, sir?" that saved his life that night. I stood back, watching the whole thing unfold, thinking this is the most beautify thing, but then realizing that I, too, looked past this man earlier that day. What shame! All he needed was a quick survey of his status and an appropriate revision to his oxygen regime. Literally just a twist of a valve would have made all the difference, and I would have known so much earlier, if I had only stopped to ask. His pain would not have been prolonged if I had. I spent that night constantly revisiting him, ensuring he was well taken care of, perhaps more out of guilt than empathy.

Thankfully, it ended well as he was taken out of the emergency room the following day.

And that is why I am grateful for having met you. Thank you for reminding me what it means to be human.