Monday, September 23, 2013

Think about such things.

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--
think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

I approached you carefully. Not because I was nervous or any such thing but because when I saw you, I knew that you were probably sleeping. And since I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be a big fan of being jolted out of my sleep by the lights-cameras-action of doctors or nurses flicking on lights and calling out my name in an unnecessarily booming voice, I made a point of descending gently upon my bedside position.

That said, there is a such thing as coming in too quietly, though. Equally jarring, I'd say. One minute you're fast asleep and the next some face is peering into yours and jostling your shoulder. Your eyes open and -- yikes! A person--no people--surrounding your bed in a big semicircle as you try your best to adjust the drool that has leaked from the side of your mouth. (That same mouth that someone is going to ask you to "open up wide" before you've had a chance to freshen up.)

I found the happy medium. A soft knock on the wall after I passed that first bed to reach yours. Feet light but firm enough to make just enough noise to let you know that someone was in your room. And like clockwork, the mound of covers that represented you began to stir a bit. You rolled to your back and pulled down the blankets just enough for me to see your eyes. With a playful squint, you shook your head hard and then hid your face again. It was early.

"Good morning," I said with a chuckle.

Down came the curtain. This time, under your chin and signaling that you were now ready. "Good morning, sweet girl."

That made my face erupt into a big, wide smile. For every day of this hospitalization you'd called me that. Sweet girl. And something about the way you looked into my face so warmly whenever you did made me believe that you meant it.

"I see you're laying down flat. How are you breathing?"

You took a deep breath and let it out. "I'm breathing a heap better than I was before. 'Reckon I am breathing a lot better since I'm flat, huh?"


You already began sitting up in preparation for my lung exam. Normally when my patient is lying in bed already, I like to examine the heart first, but I also try to go with the flow. And so I did.

"How they sound? Do you hear the cracklies?"

"Nope." I pulled my scope out of my ears. "Those lungs are clear today. Not a crackly in sight."

"Or earshot." We both smiled at your correction.

I went on with the exam as you assisted me. I called it assisting because you did more than just cooperate. You pulled down sheets and unfastened snaps on your gown. You parted your lips and took big deep breaths and turned in positions before I could even ask.

"I think if the procedure goes well today, we might be able to get you going."

"That sounds good to me. What time you think they gon' take me down there?"

I looked up at the clock. "I think in the next hour or two."

"Okay. I hope so. 'Cause I ain't ate nothin' since midnight. And you know I'm starting to get a little lunchy."

We laughed out loud at that word "lunchy." That was the term you'd told me on the first day I examined you. My stethoscope was on your abdomen and your bowel sounds were so loud and gurgly that I raised my eyebrows in response.

"I'm feeling kinda lunchy, Miss Manning," you'd said. "That's what you hearing. Go on see what's taking them trays so long, hear?"

And something about that word "lunchy" amused me so much that you said it over and over again just to make me smile. That and calling me "sweet girl."

And so. You went for your procedure. It went fine. And afterwards you were discharged from the hospital--but not until you'd had your lunch.

Before you left, you grabbed my hand tight and said, "You be good, hear? I appreciate you taking care of me, sweet girl."

"And I appreciate you, too. You have no idea how much."

That is what I said. Because that is what I felt.

And this? This is this the part I love so much about being a doctor. Nothing exotic or cutting edge. Just one person looking into the eyes of another person and letting them know that they matter. The relationship is deeply symbiotic; we need each other to survive.

The everyday, the people, the words and inside jokes like "lunchy" and the tender names like "sweet girl" spoken to woman who gets that it's a term of endearment and receives it as such. This is the best part and this is what I am thinking about this morning. And all of it excellent and praiseworthy--it is. And yes. It feels good to think about such things. And so I do.


Happy Monday.


  1. What we wrongly call "the little things" are most important. That's what I think.

  2. I am going to recommend to my second year med students that they read your blog. I have a small group for " Advanced Communication Skills" You my friend are an advanced communicator!

  3. Absolutely beautiful.

    I just wanted to let you know that since the start of August I'm down 10 lbs. onward! Thanks for the inspiration you are. Like this post. This is just inspiration to live well. To pay attention. To care. Thank you for being here and being you.

    1. OMG Angella!! That makes me soooo happy and proud of you. I hope you know how much you inspire me. I really hope to meet you in person one of these days soon. I truly do.

      So proud of you.

  4. Hope you saw my comment on Dr Danielle Ofri and her book What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine. I told her she needs to meet you or at least read your blog. Hope you two can meet each other. She needs to hear about the small group process at Emory.

    1. Hey Mary Alice! Yes! I am very familiar with Danielle Ofri's work. She writes beautifully. I've read her book Singular Intimacies and several of her essays. She actually trained with my colleague Dr. Neil W. (who is often spoken of on this blog.) Thanks for your kind words.

  5. I stumbled upon your blog this evening and just wanted to say this post so eloquently touched on how I felt about Grady during my nursing rotation there earlier this Fall. It has carried on, as you see I didn't know what to expect upon arriving there but was excited to take on the learning experience. It was phenomenal and every patient touched me in some way. I had a sweet older patient who I made a point to checkup on just because I felt such a great connection to. He would great me every time with, "hey sweetheart". He & Grady hold a dear place to me.
    Thanks for being so inspiring and truly compassionate! You have a new reader.


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