Like gravity, the presence and impact of suffering is an element of life we can&#x2019;t escape. It&#x2019;s interesting that the root of the word suffer means &#x201C;to feel keenly.&#x201D; Immediately, we are faced with a paradox. While feeling keenly is what opens us to suffering, feeling keenly is also what opens us to beauty, love, and joy. [&#x2026;] They are inseparable. - Mark Nepo\n\nI met her just before she was rushed into the operating room for an urgent pericardial window, this woman, I will call Rose. \nShe lay there breathless, clutching her rosary, with calm, focused eyes that met each one of us with complete trust. \nThe surgeon offered to tape the rosary to her hand so that it would be with her throughout the procedure. She responded in this moment so close to death with a smile of thanks. \nI did my duty as the 3rd year student, retracting her thorax as the surgeon cut the window, draining the malignant cells from around her heart. Then, I touched her heart. \nOver the next several months I continued to return to visit Rose: Through each decline in her health, each additional intervention: the PEG, the trach, she would continue to greet me and many others with her gracious smile and deep faith. \nShe challenged my concept of what was a good death: I became curious about her view of what a good death was, about her choice to continue to hold on, to request another form of mechanical life-support, to stay in this hospital bed, in this hospital room for 9 months. \nFor her, this was a good death: Her family grew over time, to include not just husband and children, but also nurses, social workers, students, doctors and chaplains.\nI think her room was full on both her birthday and the day of her death. \nShe was the first patient to teach me how to lean in to something I did not understand, when I felt uncomfortable, in this case, her values and choices. \nShe taught me to wonder while watching with her, and with curiosity to discover her seemingly infinite resilience. \nShe taught me to be courageous when I did not understand and when I felt uncomfortable and even fearful. \nIn the end, I might have touched her myocardium, but it was she whose touch my heart will never forget. \n\n\n
Doctor as WriterSuzana Makowski MD MMM FACPPalliative Care
To be a doctor and writer• Surprise• Curiosity• “Sucker for a good story”• Creativity: imagining a different future• Advocacy
A Window to the Heart Not all stories have happy
Emerging Themes and Lessons for the Young Doctor• Resilience• Courage• Love - in all it’s manifestations• Wonder and Uncertainty• Discernment: ✴Or “On what is mine and what is theirs” - the essence of professionalism
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