That One Patient

We all have our own personal defining moments. The moments after which we know that something has changed within us. They don’t always have to be overdramatic or life altering moments. They could simply be a few words said by a friend, a brief encounter with a perfect stranger or just a thought that sneaks up on you in a dark night when you’re all alone.

I remember the first clinical case I wanted to clerk back in 4th year. I just randomly entered the first room I laid my eyes on. She was a young girl in her mid twenties. Let’s call her Amal. Amal had been admitted following an unsuccessful suicide attempt. The details of the story are irrelevant but what I can tell you is this, she was broken. It was not a case that I could present to the doctor especially that it was complicated and I was very defective in my clinical skills. I stayed anyway.

I spent half an hour with her that did not have much to do with signs and symptoms. She was telling me her story when we were interrupted by her angry parent. I excused myself but just before I left, I could spot a look of gratitude in her eyes. She silently mouthed, “thank you,” to me. True, medically I did not do anything to help her. However, I like to believe that, in a way, I did help.

For months later, I could not get her out of my head. The sad look in her eyes and the heart wrenching voice of hers are still very vivid in my mind. I felt guilty that I could not offer her any substantial help. I was frustrated at the way we manage patients. These are humans, not disease to be treated and sent home.

I promised myself that never would I be that doctor who focuses on the physical and ignores everything else. Of course, as days passed by, I can sense my determination weakening sometimes with everything we face but all I have to do is remember Amal. My resolution becomes strong again.

I’m sure most of us have our own Amal; that one patient who left an imprint on our soul not to be obscured by the demands and stresses of our lives. Let us all try our best and work our hardest to become the physicians our Amals deserve. 

  • This is an article of mine that was featured in April’s issue of the monthly Words to Inspire Newsletter, a monthly handout printed by fellow medical students containing articles revolving around various life lessons aimed at medical students. I’m a regular writer and circulator (RBC’s we’re so dearingly called!) 
  • Words to Inspire Newsletter Facebook Group and Fanpage

5 thoughts on “That One Patient”

  1. That must have been difficult, I could feel it!!

    I have always felt the agony doctors must have felt with patients but all what I hear is once we are into it we get ourselves deattached from everything! I just can’t get that!

  2. You being there, for however short a period of time, is bound to have helped her, in whatever form.

    We all have our “Amals” as you put it. Brilliantly stated. 🙂

  3. His Sweetheart, it was and it is still difficult seeing those kinds of patients and the ones with terminal diseases which you can’t do much for them medically to help
    But it does get easier as time goes by.. it’s not about deattaching as much as not getting attached in the first place. They teach us Empathy as opposite to Sympathy which is a debate in patients approach and it’s in order to achieve the best outcome for this patient. It’s a big topic!

    Manutdfanatic, i would like to think that I helped 🙂 and everyone has a similar story i’m sure. After the article was published I got many comments from fellow students whom I didn’t even know telling me about their own Amals

  4. د.باسم
    أفتكر قرأت هذي المقالة و أنا سنة رابعة و كانت أول شي أقرأه لك .. وقتها مرة اتأثرت و اتمنيت أقرالك أكتر
    و دحين متابعة كتاباتك (:
    مرة شكراً إنك بتشركنا معاك في هذي التجارب و اللحظات الخاصة جداً

  5. تعليقك ترك عندي إحساس دافئ وجميل . لي الشرف أن تتابعيني من ذلك الوقت
    هذه اللحظات تكتسب المزيد من المعنى عندما تلمس شيئاً بداخل طبيب مبتدئ أو طالب

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