Jana had been working here for a long time … perhaps 15 years of practice. When she applied for medical school, she was going to “help people.” Now she had 14 patients on her morning schedule and 12 in the afternoon. She hoped the medical assistant roomed them quickly so she could get to lunch conference on time.
Jana thought “I better stop by the store on my way home from work. No groceries in the fridge and two hungry teenagers expecting a homemade meal tonight”.
Run … run … run. Go … go … go.
What had she become? No time to even stop for a drink of water. “But this is what medicine is nowadays” she thought. Jana glimpsed briefly in the mirror at her own reflection, saw the tiny wrinkles in her frown lines, realized her hair was grayer and the color needed a touchup. “Maybe next weekend” she sighed.
Patient 1 was a quick visit for heartburn.
Patient 2 sprained his knee.
Patient 3 brought out the dreaded list a mile long, and she had to gently walk her out of the clinic or it would have prolonged the visit even longer.
Here she was already a half an hour late and there was no way to catch up.
Jana paused for a moment and looked down at the doorknob as she opened the door. Washing her hands, simultaneously greeting the patient and apologizing profusely for her chronic lateness, Jana smiled a faint smile and saw Mrs. X sitting on the exam table. Frail and 86 years old. “Why is she here?” Jana wondered. Jana was flustered with Mrs. X. “I can never get her to take her bp meds” she thought. Mrs. X must be here for her annual visit and it is a good thing Mrs. X has brought her husband with her today. Jana acknowledged Mr. X as just another person in the exam room and said “I hope you can convince her to take her meds”.
The exam proceeded and Jana noticed how thin Mrs. X had gotten.
Mrs. X always said the same predictable thing year after year. “Oh Doctor…you have such lovely raven hair. You know Doctor my sister had raven hair like yours”. “Oh … it is not so raven anymore Mrs. X”, Jana replied back somewhat curtly.
Jana finished the exam, renewed the pills, typed a quick note into the computer and felt relieved she was about to finish the visit. She spent the last few minutes focused on the medical record on the computer screen as she completed everything and was happy she was only 15 minutes late for noon conference. Jana realized sadly Mrs. X was one of those patients with whom she would never really connect on a deeper level.
As she walked Mrs. X out of the room, she turned to glance at Mrs. X’s husband sitting in the corner of the exam room. He was visibly disturbed. His eyes were bloodshot and tearful. “She does not recognize me anymore,” he said through a cracking voice. “She wanders. She doesn’t take care for herself, much less me. She used to be proud of our home and now it is in utter shambles … Utter shambles.”
Jana sat back down on her chair and stared at Mrs. X. Jana looked at him. “Sixty years of marriage, three kids, eight grandkids, and here we are strangers” he said as his voice cracked.
Jana hugged him and told him how sorry she felt that this had happened to them. There were tears streaming down Jana’s eyes now as she realized what she too had become.