Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Attending Soul.

I used to think it might be fun to be
Anyone else but me
I thought that it would be a pleasant surprise
To wake up as a couple of other guys

But now that I've found you

I've changed my point of view
And now I wouldn't give a dime to be
Anyone else but me

~ Tony Bennett's version of "Lucky to be Me"


Yesterday was busy. Very busy.

The number of patients scheduled in the clinic seemed unusually high. For some reason, there seemed to be more residents with full templates of patients than usual. But for each of those patients, their problems were the most important. Unique to them and important to them, so whether we were busy or not, it was our job to remember that.

That's not always so easy, though.

I saw a lady crying. Crying because she felt like a failure for not being able to quit a bad habit that was really far more than just that. It had become a stronghold, something that had her defenseless to its power like a puppet on a string. But her insight was excellent. And she was brave.

"You're an overcomer," I told her. "I can see it. I can tell. You are."

And she wept some more because she wanted this to be true. Her doctor--the resident--had created a safe space for her over the last several months. One where it was okay to break down and cry with both of us. And this wasn't her first time doing that.

But that was okay. Well sort of okay. Okay because we care and we want her to have a space to unpack sometimes. But only sort of because the clinic was busy and there were other patients pacing in and out of doorways and craning necks down halls.

But mostly it was okay.

Another patient lost forty-two pounds. On purpose, she'd lost forty-two pounds! Her resident doctor had carefully counseled and encouraged her and it had made a difference. There was pep in her step. There was slide in her glide. I walked right in and danced right around that room with her. Gave her a hug and a fist bump and, I'm pretty sure, a hip bump, too. Because this was a big deal. A very big deal! She was proud of her weight loss and so was her doctor. I was proud of them both.

"Dr. Manning! Do you see what my doctor helped me to do?" she said.

And her doctor, the resident, said, "No. You did this. You did the hard work."

And she looked at him saying that and just beamed. He did, too. And so did I.

Another man was hearing voices. Not voices commanding him to do bad things but still voices that were clouding up his conscience and making it hard for him to live his life. The voice-stopping medicines make him "a zombie" so he was in this catch 22 between hearing noise and hearing nothing. Which sucked because I had no answer to that.

Someone used to walk with a cane but waltzed straight into the clinic without one. "Water aerobics!" was the glee-filled explanation to why those achy-breaky joints finally seemed to be doing better. A bad knee feeling better because of the weight-loss that took some of the load off that weight-bearing joint. And that patient just laughed and laughed because people who aren't in pain have something to laugh about. Me and that resident doctor laughed, too, because everyone knows that a good laugh is infectious.

So yeah, even though we were swamped, that part was good. Really good, if only for a moment.

So this was the day. Moments like these, where the pendulum swung back and forth. Joy and pain. Sunshine and rain. All swirling inside of a cloud of busy, hustle-bustle, go-stay-go in the clinic at our public hospital. A day where sandwiches get wolfed down over counter tops while simultaneously listening to patient presentations. Hoping you're getting it all and also, if you're lucky, teaching someone a thing or two. Or at least being a halfway decent role model.


The day drew to a close and it had been long. The time change means we walk out of the hospital and into darkness. That makes the day feel even longer. It does.

I drove home feeling tired. Not much on my mind but mundane things like what we'd eat for dinner and whether or not my children would come home with the jackets I bought from Target less than two weeks ago. I pushed that swinging pendulum of human lives out of my head because it felt like more than I wanted for this drive home. Because I was tired.

Once I got home, I did the things that parents do. Once the kids were off to sleep and Harry was off to watch Monday night football on the couch, I opened my laptop and prepared to do some work. That's when all of those people and their stories and their lives started swirling around me. Finding their way back into my head and my heart. Some part of me felt a little bad because it was all so busy. So in and out and here and there and rushed. I hoped it was okay. For the patients. For the learners. For everyone.

There are days like this. The busy ones that leave me with these dueling emotions of gratitude and self-doubt. Hoping, hoping, hoping that it's enough. Hoping, hoping, hoping those little moments where I slip in behind hard-working resident doctors and medical students to say my part and reinforce whatever needs to be reinforced. . .is enough.

Yesterday was one of those days.

But then. In the midst of all of those thoughts, I click open my email inbox and saw this:

Dear Dr Manning,

After a busy clinic, as I am about to wrap up my day, I feel light and blessed. I thought I have to share this and thank you once again for your time, working with our pts and me. It is so rewarding to see the happiness, wellness and pride in our pts. Indeed your presence, supervision, words and final touches are incredibly valuable, both for our pts and me. I see the difference, feel it and appreciate all your trust, support and leadership.

Thank you for the opportunity, which allows me to grow personally and professionally, as a student, as a proud Emory citizen.

Have a great night,


I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath. And then felt my own pendulum swinging. Further and further away from self-doubt and closer and closer to gratitude.


Happy Tuesday.

This version of this song is playing on my mental iPod. And I'm singing it to Grady Hospital today. Thank you, Mr. Tony Bennett, for this perfect soundtrack to my thoughts.


  1. I admire you so much and was feeling your weariness after such a long day. As soon as I started reading the email, I felt my heart lifting up because I knew it would make you feel better! Isn't it serendipitious how things like that happen?

  2. Grace happens sometimes when we need it most. I like to think of it as God saying, "Oh no, we are about to lose one! Quick, throw her a line!". But maybe Grace is there all the time and it is just the weary heart that is most open to hearing it...
    Love, Coach B

  3. Beautiful......simply beautiful!

  4. Doing good always seems to find its way back to us.

  5. Much love for you and your family. Thanks for sharing your beautiful sibling with us. She is so loved and will be so missed.


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

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