I’ve been a little MIA because my day job has been my day-into-night job this week. Despite being tired and my house looking like it was ransacked, it’s been a really good week. Even beyond the mundane frustrations of a large metropolitan hospital, some weeks I joke that I am just “staving off death” rather than “saving lives.” Yesterday, I was reminded that I didn’t take an oath to fix illness, but rather to try and alleviate suffering. I was delivering the good news to a patient who had been eager to go home for several days; I had spent much of the week reassuring his worried wife (who herself apologized, “sorry, I’m so neurotic!”) and attempting to explain his condition-low salt levels in the blood, which in his case was, counterintuitively, due to an excess of free water in his blood. He was a chemistry teacher in his pre-illness life and despite my crude drawings on the dry erase board, we were getting nowhere until I channeled high school chemistry class: “there’s not enough solute for the amount of solvent.” Eureka!
As I was leaving his room, my patient said: “You are awesome. That’s the word I used when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time when I was eighteen. Awesome.”
Wow, I told him, gesturing my hands like a balancing scale: me, Grand Canyon. Gentleman, pay attention: if that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is. I told him that I will put that in my special mental shoebox that I dip into when work is frustrating, when patients or their families yell at me, when I haven’t peed or eaten because I am trying to work faster, for when I forget to be grateful that I get to do the work I do, even when anyone who works in a medical setting will tell you it is so incredibly not glamorous despite its media portrayal (no McDreamies or McSteamies here…though a cute murse did put his phone number in my coat pocket while we were squeezed in a supply closet once…but I digress).
It was one of the most original thank yous I have ever received, at work or otherwise. And it made my day. So if you have the chance today and feel a desire to thank anyone in your life for something, do it. It just might make their day. And yours. Happy Monday! :)