Friday, August 24, 2012

Their eyes were watching God.

image  taken and shared with patient's permission

Today. . .

Sunlight bathing the room. Him, sitting quietly with light beaming around him. A halo, even.

I approach softly. He doesn't move.

Edematous legs off of the edge of the bed. Head tilted upward with closed eyes.

I pause. Then wait.

Still, he doesn't move.

Intentionally, I nudge his tray table, hoping to let him know I'm there.

His head turns sideways and I see only a silhouette of his profile. As I come closer to him, I can see that he is smiling. He pats the bed beside him, welcoming me in.

I ask him how he he's doing and listen as he tells me. Next I examine his body and talk to him about the results of his tests. The news is not great news. We don't have all the answers but it seems serious. And I want him to know that this is what we are discussing in physician-only rooms tucked on the halls away from where he is. Even without all of the details, I want him in on what we're in on. I do and he gets it.

His body stills again and just then I notice rosary beads in his hands. Head bowed, eyes again closed. His head suddenly turns in my direction, startling me. I smile awkwardly, feeling like I just stepped in on someone who'd believed they had privacy.

"You know what?"

"What's that, sir?"

"If He brang you to it, He'll brang you through it." Releasing a weak chuckle, he continues. "But, see, only He know what route you gon' take."

I stand in silence, taking time to scrawl that on the graffiti wall in my head for later. The section on "good words."

"Yeah. So I'm jest sitting here praying that through it mean through with it."

"Yes, sir." My voice is barely audible.

Again those hands clasp around the rosary beads and this time I see his mouth moving without sounds coming out. His eyes are now skyward, opening for bit and closing for a bit, and then doing it again. First, I wait without speaking. Next, I stand up; I place my hand on his shoulder for a moment, push down and squeeze.

Without another word, I tiptoe away. Leaving him to pray his way through the thing that he was brought to.

And yes.

Those are my patient's real hands holding his real rosary beads and, yes, this was a real part of my day today. 

This intrepid faith is and always will be one of the very best parts of Grady.

Yes, it will.


Another part of today. . . .

This is from one other piece of my day today at Grady. It's an image of my colleague and fellow Grady doctor Stacie S. connecting with a patient. I was looking for one of my  patients on my afternoon rounds who'd left the first bed in the same room. I didn't find my patient but I did get there just in time to witness this moment. 

Aaah. It moved me deep in my soul.

See, I have known Stacie since she was an Emory medical student. She trained with us for residency and I even spent an entire month as her attending on the Grady wards some years back.

And now here she is. An attending physician, too. All grown up. Respecting and caring and simply being there with a patient. Now role modeling for me without even realizing it.

No defibrillator paddles out for a high-paced code sequence or sterile gloves on for an exciting procedure.

No medical students watching with the same short white coat that she once wore on these very halls. No residents standing by to make mental note of and then jot down her empathic behaviors into an evaluation form for later.


None of those "sexy" parts of medicine that you see on television dramas or that people imagine when filling out medical school applications. Just one doctor with one patient -- caught caring. This was humanism as its best.

Watching Stacie in that moment made my heart swell. It made me feel so proud of her and, yes, proud of us for being a part of her upbringing in medicine. Proud that we didn't take this--this critically important piece of being a doctor--away from her through irresponsible role modeling on our part. This piece that cannot be found in books but that can somehow be lost along the way if we aren't careful.

This moment--captured with the quick snap of an iPhone in the late afternoon--affirmed me today. Damn, it did. It made me want to try harder and do better and pay things forward. Because this is the result when you do. Or when we all do together.

Can't believe I'm crying. . . again.

But I am because all of this is Grady. . .snippets of humanity behind sliding curtains and inside beating hearts. The parts that are filled with grace and simplicity--and that don't get shown on the 11 o' clock news.

I'm so glad to be here. Right here.

Happy Friday.


  1. Replies
    1. You're so awesome. You know that, right? I appreciate your encouraging words as always.

  2. I am glad you're there, too. I am thinking I am not the only one.

  3. Do you believe that at the end of it (whatever "it" might be) that our relationships and the impact we have on others is all that we take with us? I do.


    1. Aaaaahhh. Thank you for your thoughts today, Nancy. Thanks for being a part of this community, too.

  4. Being present in the moment is such a gift, not only to others but to ourselves. And you, my dear, seem to work hard at doing just that very thing.
    Seeing that picture of those beautiful hands with the rosary brought me back to my childhood and memories of many rosaries prayed and my parents' generation with their bedrock faith...
    Love, Coach B

  5. Can I tell you that my world tipped a little on its axis when I realized I would not be seeing you multiple days every week this year...
    Love, Coach B

    1. When I hugged your neck tight at open house it was because, in that moment, I had just realized the very same thing. And I do want you to know that I was very, very, very close to putting both boys there just to be able to catch a glimpse of you and my favorite first grade teacher.

      I really loved our little moments in the office. But I let myself feel connected to you knowing that you spend lunch breaks reading here. It makes me want to hurry up and get a post up before you have lunch.

      Thank you for being you.

  6. **I'm so glad to be here. Right here.**

    I'm sure your patients are, too.

    Because you are amazing, Doctor Wonderful. X

  7. Ahhh... just got back into town and got to read this. Got me all misty-eyed, just like that image did when you shared it. xoxo


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