I had my last Ortho duty last Monday and it was, like all the previous duties before it, extremely tiring! ER duties at UP-PGH have always felt like stepping into some kind of battlefield, and heading into the chaos solo is a whole new experience of its own. Huhu for clerk-less rotations! Still, I am very grateful for our kind residents who, despite facing a whole different level of stress and pressure, take time to teach and guide us as we deal with our patients.
That said, it was not at all surprising that I felt so exhausted come post-duty Tuesday. We are given a grace period in the morning to freshen up before heading to the OPD to see patients at a less toxic environment. After taking a shower, it was a bad idea on my part to decide to lie down and take a short nap. It took all I had to force myself to get up and head back to the hospital. Thank God I remembered to set alarms! My exhausted body and sleep-deprived brain were both begging me to just keep on sleeping, but of course, I must fulfill my duties as a medical intern.
At the OPD, I did my best to see patients, partially struggling with the Ortho Special Tests, what with my lack of upper body strength (I blame biology!) and the fact that my hands still bother me every now and then. All the while, I tried not to let my exhaustion and sleepiness show, knowing very well that my patients deserve my full attention and the best care I can possibly give them.
One particular patient made my day. She’s a middle-aged lady who came to the OPD on follow-up after getting closed reduction for her laterally displaced right patella. Our encounter began with me repeatedly calling out her name so as to show her into the examination room. After getting no response after about 5 times of calling, I was about to set her chart aside to be seen later on when I finally caught sight of one of her watchers desperately waving her arms up to get my attention. Her voice had been drowned out by the sounds of the OPD hustle and bustle. I instructed her to guide the patient into to the examination room, only to be met by a hesitant expression on her face. When I finally approached where she and the patient were, I immediately understood the reason behind her hesitation.
The patient was stretcher-bound! She couldn’t walk or even sit comfortably on a wheelchair, what with her right leg immobilized with a brace. As with all OPD rooms in our hospital, the Ortho OPD was a cramped space and there was no way the stretcher could be brought inside. And so, I decided to interview and examine the patient outside, right there at the waiting area.
I didn’t think I did anything unusual with the way I talked with her, asking after any new complaints, if she still felt pain, how she was reacting to her medications, as well as with the way I did my examination. But after a while of waiting and after eventually getting my chart entries and findings confirmed by the resident, I diligently explained what we saw on her post-reduction x-rays (her patella was back in place!) and what she should do about the persistent pain and swelling as well as when she should come back for her next follow-up.
It was then that she smiled and repeatedly thanked me for seeing her. She happily praised me on how from the very moment I approached her, she immediately knew how kind I was and she wasn’t at all disappointed when we began talking.
“Ang sarap-sarap mong kausap, doktora! Napakabait. Sana ikaw ‘uli ang tumingin sa akin pagbalik ko rito…” she regaled, her words instantly perking up my mood. “Bibihira na ang mga mababait dito, alam niyo naman!”
I eagerly returned her smile and expressed my regret over almost shifting out of Ortho, making it very unlikely for me to be the one to see her come her next follow-up. “Sayang naman! Good luck sa ‘yo ha. Hahanapin ko ang pangalan mo ‘pag lumabas na ang resulta ng board exam niyo!”
Suffice to say, it was like my exhaustion practically vanished.
It’s funny how spending a mere 30 minutes with that patient, wherein I did nothing but talk with her and quickly examine her aching leg, had such a great impact on her. Hearing how happy she was just because I greeted her with a smile and made an effort to make the interview a lively conversation affirms my belief on how kindness can truly contribute towards the process of healing. Though there will truly be times when exhaustion and stress would get the best of us, and our tempers would be repeatedly tested, making the effort to be kind will always be worth it, not just because it is what our patients deserve, but also because it is a treatment in itself.
After all, what really makes a doctor great is not the size of her brain, but the size of her heart.
It’s been a terrific two weeks of Ortho. I had fun and certainly learned a lot, thanks to our consultants and residents, and of course, our patients. Here’s to the continuing battle of saving lives, limbs, and functionality! :) Let’s continue healing, not just with our medical knowledge, but also and more importantly, with our kindness.