Saturday, March 3, 2012


Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it's done so far
What's so amazing
That keeps us star gazing
What so we think we might see

Someday we'll find it
That rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

~ Kermit the Frog in "The Rainbow Connection"


Of course the news was bad. Ever since I was a medical student this was always the old adage: "The nicest patients have the worst diagnoses."

And you were nice. More than nice, really. You were funny and witty and smart and likable. Everything that portends a poor prognosis. 

I met you during the honeymoon period before things were confirmed. You patted your bed and told me to sit down next to you which is exactly what I did. You said things that made me laugh out loud. And you knew your medical history like the back of your hand and barely came up for breath when telling me every single detail of it.

"Was that too long?" you asked me.

"Uuuuhhhhhh. . .I mean. . . it was. . . uhhh. . .thorough." 

Then we both erupted into big, fluffy hearty laughs at the same time. The kind that float out into hallways and summon others inside. When I asked the next question, I narrowed my eyes and said, "Alright, this time give me the Cliff Notes version."  

You furrowed your brown and wagged your finger at me lightheartedly. Again came those big, fluffy, and contagious laughs all over again. Because you were cool like that. Serious about what was going on with your body but cool enough to pat your bed and welcome me into your space. And to make our encounter one that welcomed this kind of humor.

"I feel so much better," you told me. 

"I'm so glad you do!"  And I meant that. I wasn't there when you were first admitted, so I never saw you at your worst. As much as you stole my heart in just ten minutes, I'm so glad I didn't have to see you that way.

Now, you did look good. Good enough to discharge from the hospital, even. 

But. There was still a cloud looming over our heads. Even if you did feel like a  champ, your original symptoms and findings made no sense. Unless, of course, it was the very worst thing possible. I hoped so bad it wasn't that. I crossed my fingers because you looked so good. Too good for that word that nobody wanted to dare say but would eventually prove to explain your entire hospitalization.


When I came to see you again, you had already been given the diagnosis. This time I was rounding with the medical students and before going in your room, I told them, "The diagnosis has already been discussed. I just want to go and visit, you know? To just. . .I don't know. . .check in." I stammered a little more because there wasn't some big teachable moment or physical finding I had to share. This was just me going to see a new friend who'd just heard some heavy news. A new friend who happened to be a patient on our hospital census.

When I got in the room, you were your same self but a little less spunky. Our exchange was as easy as the day before, and something about that made my heart hurt. 

"I feel like you have some piece of information or like something is going on," you said. "You look like you got something to tell me. You got some more bad news you haven't told me yet?"

And I just stood there staring back at you. You had already recounted everything that every other doctor had told you already. You knew the diagnosis and broke it down far more than I'd ever heard any patient break down anything. So, no. I had no more news. Or anything for that matter.

"No, I have no news."  My voice became tiny and watered down. "I. . I just really felt. . . touched by you yesterday. I loved meeting you and talking to you and laughing with you. I guess I kind of felt like we connected."

You sat up in your bed and smiled. "I felt that way, too."

I smiled and added, "So, really, I just wanted to come and see how you were today. With all that's going on, you know? I just wanted to come and see about you."

"I appreciate that," you said.

You patted your bed once more and again welcomed me in. This time with your better half in the chair right beside you who, of course, was just as nice as you.

"Alright, Manning. Now since we connected and all. . .I hope you use some of your connections to get me up out of this hospital!" 

And we laughed. Hearty, fluffy, and so contagious that the students joined right in. 

And we talked. And connected just like we did before.

Ever since I was a medical student this was always the old adage: "The nicest patients have the worst diagnoses." 

Damn. You never stood a chance.

Happy Late-Friday-Early-Saturday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . my favorite song about connections. . . 


  1. This brought tears to my eyes. Once again I am blown away by how much you care about your patients and in the end, that is all that really matters. God bless you Dr. Manning. Joanne

  2. I know. It's true. Seems like the Evil Ones live forever.

  3. Guess I'll have to get meaner.

  4. beautiful story.

    damn those old adages....but luckily some of the nicest people live to ripe old ages and die 'good deaths'

    my favorite song about connections too! i recently learned we have a mutual friend from your days in cleveland!


  5. This made me cry. My oncologist told me that same adage when he first met me.


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

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