Saturday, October 30, 2010

Love actually.

*details, specifics changed to protect anonymity. . . .you know the deal.

A friend called me one day in tears. "I'm never going to get married," she moaned. "Ever. I'm so unlucky in love."

"Trust me," I responded, "There is somebody for everyone. Really. Just be patient. Trust me, I mean it."

"But I think some people just have crappy luck when it comes to love. I am a loser magnet."

"Stop speaking it, man. You have to stop speaking it or the universe will hear you."

"Okay," she whimpered, "Okay."

And that ended our conversation. I bet you think I was drawing upon my wonderful epic saga of when Harry met Kimberly when offering up those encouraging words, don't you?

Well, I wasn't. I was thinking of Grady Hospital.

How I know that love is out there for everyone:

This one time at the Gradys, I was seeing a Grady elder with one of the residents. And what a patient he was! The first thing I noticed about him was his infectiously positive attitude. This was remarkable, considering some of his other features.

He had exactly one tooth remaining of the thirty-two that he'd started out with, and that sole survivor was riddled with decay. Oh that lonely incisor. . . it was buried on each side by a heap of inflamed pink gingiva, yet had somehow migrated exactly to the center of his upper gumline. His face was covered with pasted on "moles"-slash-flat warts, and his lips kept a constant supply of white, frothy saliva tucked in each of their corners.

Aaahh, but it didn't stop him from smiling.

He had a poorly controlled case of diabetes which left him with one below the knee amputation, and because of his limited workout schedule, his stout midsection looked like a spare tire, literally. And just to give you a better sense (pun intended) of this particular patient, let me add that he wreaked of some dank odor that was possibly urine or something else.

Now, y'all know by now: I love me some Grady Hospital. But even more than I love me some Grady Hospital, I love me some Grady patients. And even MORE than I love me some Grady patients, I love, love, love me some Grady elders. So please. . . .know that when I say this next statement, it is with nothing but endearment:

This dude was no chick magnet.

(But somehow, he never got that memo.)

"Haa-haaaaaaahhhh!!!" he'd cackle and slap his knee during the encounter. It was this awesome-front porch-in-a-rocking-chair-happy-grandmama-or-granddaddy type laugh. Unabashedly loud and boisterous. No hand in front of his mouth. No embarrassed, slumped shoulders. No skittish eyes. Not this dude. He was cool with himself.

And as it turns out, he wasn't the only one. I learned that when I returned to discuss his treatment plan with the resident physician who'd been seeing him that day. We'd painstakingly made adjustments to his insulin to account for sky-high blood sugars, his blood pressure medicines to account for failing kidneys, his pain medicine to account for horrible neuropathy, and his cholesterol medication to account for his soaring lipids. The patient had only completed 4th grade, and, though motivated, had very limited health literacy.

We carefully explained the entire plan step by step. We drew pictures, we asked questions, we had him repeat what had been said to be sure he understood. After he understood the medical aspects of his visit, we explored aspects of his home life to be sure he wasn't getting overwhelmed. Fortunately, he had plenty of support from his adult children and friends. He'd been widowed for several years, so I feared that he was isolated and perhaps at risk for depression. A few quick screening questions confirmed that this was absolutely not the case. He was fine. And especially fine with himself.

So, that was that. We prepared to wrap up the visit with this moderately obese, virtually toothless, diabetic, and amputated gentleman in a room that seemed made for containing this urine-ish odor in its every crevice. But somehow his pleasant attitude and outlook on life overshadowed all of that. We helped him back into his motorized wheelchair and prepared to bid him adieu. I decided that he'd be my F.P. (favorite patient) for the day.

"Doctor?" he asked as I put my hand on the doorknob to leave.


"I almost forgot to ask y'all--I wonted to see if I could get me some them Viagras. I ran out of the ones I had got from a friend."

Say wha-wha-whaaaat? (Imagine me on a turntable scratching a record like a very surprised deejay.)

The resident and I exchanged glances. I spoke first. "Errr. . . .sir, are you. . .umm. . . .do you. . .have a lady friend?"

Great Manning. You're the attending, remember? That's officially the lamest way ever to ask a patient if he was sexually active. Decided to try to fix it. "I mean, sir, are you currently having sex with someone?" Great. Even dumber.

"Well yeah! Or else'n why would I be askin' for the Viagras?" He let out that giddy laugh again. "Me and my lady-friend been friends for years, and got close a while back after both our spouses passed on. We old, but we ain't dead!" And this time winked.

Ummm. Yeah.

I looked at his chart and noted that he wasn't on any nitroglycerin containing medications (which would make medications like Viagra a no-no.) The resident explained that his erectile dysfunction issues (or "nature" as he referred to it) could be from his diabetes and possibly something that might not respond to medications like. . .uhh. . Viagras.

"Nawww, it work for me jest fine," he countered and winked again. He still had that big gummy smile when he added, "My lady-friend out in the waiting area, and I know she gon' be glad I remembered to ask."



This morning, I'm reflecting on a few simple yet poignant lessons that this patient had to offer:
  1. Attitude is everything.
  2. What matters most is how you see yourself.
  3. Never assume that a patient doesn't have the kind of sex life that warrants Viagra. (Or Viagras.) And most important?
  4. There is a lid to every pot--even if it's buried so far in the back of the cabinet that you think it's nonexistent. Even when you lose your first lid, another can await who lost its pot.

See? Now surely my morose girlfriend's prince charming is out there somewhere. And who knows? Maybe he's a frog sitting in a waiting area somewhere just waiting to be kissed.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails