Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's cliche`

Of course it is. But cliche`d sayings become that way for a reason - because they are true.

Bad things happen to good people.
Family man. Self-employed. Builds pneumatic machinery for a living. Experimenting currently with ways to recycle fiberglass and plastic and make the combination into something useful. Did I mention what a nice guy he is?

A shredder he's using catches his gloved hand, his gloved right hand, pulling it in and, well, shredding it. Because that's what shredders do. Calmly, he tells his son to reverse the gears on the shredder so he can pull his entrapped hand back out. I wince and tell him I'd rather not do that and damage his hand more, and call the fire department.

"Oh, you want this machine taken apart?", he asks, and deftly loosens the bolts that hold the shredder together with his left hand, while his mangled right hand remains trapped. Seconds later, he's walking up toward our ambulance, shredder and shredded, entrapped hand being supported by his other hand, looking back at me as if to say, "You coming?"

I feel silly asking patients like this to rate their pain. It's like asking the poor slob on the Weather Channel who's reporting from the thick of the hurricane to let me know if it's a little windy. So, 20mg of Morphine and the guy isn't feeling any less pain. But, you know, the guy is as stoic and as grateful and as ... nice as can be. He had every right to be pissed. Pissy. Shitty. Mean. But he's not. He asks our names, talks about his son's nursing school plans, expresses concern for his wife driving in an unfamiliar area in rush hour traffic. You ask him how his pain is, and he smiles, "It's there."

In short, he's the kind of patient you care about. You want him to do well; in fact, you wish you could just give him a do-over on the past hour of his life. You might think we care about everyone this way. You would be incorrect. Most people, I can't wait to get away from. I nod and say, "Uh huh" when they ramble on about their aches, their pains, their inflammed hemorrhoids, their goddamned bunions. The 45 minutes I spend with them is about 30 too long.

Not this guy. I fought tears as I handed him off to the hospital staff, because I knew what uncertainty his future held. I hugged him, which is something I do with a patient about once every ten years, and he smiled at me as if to assure me that no matter what, he would be alright. I believe he will be, but I'd still like that do-over for him.

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