Thursday, November 7, 2013

All of it spectacular.

I walked into Grady behind a medical student one busy weekday morning. It was just before the nine o' clock hour and you could tell that he was on a mission. His footing was brisk. And since he lacked signs of an overcoat or a lunch box, I could tell that he hadn't just arrived at the hospital and was likely en route from somewhere. But still, he appeared to be in a hurry to get to some destination.

Shuffling ahead of him was an older gentleman with a stack of papers in his hands. His posture was stooped and his pants appeared to be soiled with days and days of repeat wearings. Even from where I was, a few feet behind him, his dank body odor wafted into my nostrils. He stopped near the hallway and leaned his hand against the wall to take a breath.

That's when I saw what happened next. That hustle-bustling student first blew past that man and instead of wrinkling his nose in distaste and casting a judging side eye in his direction he stopped in his tracks when he noticed the man standing there. You could tell that he was, in that split second, trying to decide what to do next.

And so. There he stood at the mouth of the elevator vestibule where a large group in white coats of various lengths had already gathered in anticipation of the often sluggish lift.


In an unusual twist of fate, the elevator arrived far sooner than anticipated. And I watched that student to see what he'd do. As folks filed on to the car, he still stood in his place. Then, like something went off in his head, he made a decision right then and there.

"Sir? Are you alright?" he asked. His eyes were earnest. His cheeks were still flushed from rushing indoors.

"Just getting my breath is all." That's what that Grady elder said. And I watched from where I was, noticing that there was something about the way that man had his palm splayed against the tile wall that suggested he wasn't okay. And like something was awry.

"Were you headed to the emergency department?" the student asked next.

"Naw. I had a clinic 'pertnment but today I just been getting short at the breath so can't walk so fast."

"Do you have chest pain?"

"Naw. Jest short wind is all."

I saw that student doctor look from side to side and making, what I believe, was one of his first triage decisions. He didn't think that it was okay to leave this man to himself and from what I had gathered in those quick moments, I agreed with his assessment.

But I could tell. That student wasn't sure what to do.

"Sir? What clinic you headed to this morning, sir?" I decided to interject. I nodded to the student and positioned my body to let him know that we were in this together. No, I wasn't dismissing him or discounting his involvement one bit.

"Medical One."

The student cast a puzzled glance my way and I responded to the Grady elder before addressing it. "Okay then, sir. How 'bout we go on and get you a wheelchair today and see about you right away in the clinic? They can check you out and see if you need something more today than just your regular appointment." My voice was filled with the musical deference I reserve specifically for my Grady elders. Then, I remembered the student. "Medical One is what the Green Pod used to be called." He leaned his head back and mouthed a silent "Oh."

I pulled out my cell phone and called up to the clinic. And less than three minutes later, a nurse appeared with a wheelchair poised and ready to save the day.

And you know what? Two more elevators came and went but that student stayed right where he was. And even when I thanked him for his help and empathic response to this gentleman, he still looked conflicted. Like this was now his patient. And as this man's doctor he shouldn't leave his side.

"This is what we can't teach you," I told him. "This." I patted my chest over my heart. His cheeks turned a blazing crimson. I leaned over to the patient. "Sir, would you be okay with me letting this student doctor who stopped to see about you know how everything worked out?"

"That'd be alright with me."

And that student smiled big and genuine at that Grady elder first and then me second. And that was that. Off they rolled to the clinic and on that student went to his original destination.

The patient needed a little extra water pill for his very advanced heart failure, but was mostly okay after getting some assistance. And, as promised, I followed up with his student doctor who seemed as relieved as he was surprised that I actually called to tell him.

So that was what happened and that was that. And this is Grady and this is the future of medicine. It is. Perfect, quiet, humanistic moments tucked inside of bing-ing elevators and blurry white coats running to join rounds. And all of it is Grady and all of it--spectacular.


Happy Thursday.


  1. you give me hope for the future of medical care....

  2. It is these moments that add up to the whole of it, aren't they? Yes. Spectacular.

  3. I love this. I can't say enough how much I need to read these good, sweet things.

  4. Reading this brought tears to my eyes and the sincere hope that someday when I might be the 'elder' in need of an extra moment from someone, that someone will be there for me ................ this post of yours gives me some hope.


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

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