A memorable patient

Some patients stay with you, some for good reasons and some for bad. You carry them around with you in your head and use them for anecdotes, teaching cases, reminders of complications or pitfalls or things you would have done differently. There are others that stay with you because they touched you personally, which is to say you carry them in your heart. This number is small as these really are the special moments that occur infrequently.

The ward round on the admissions unit is a business like affair, we have 30 or so admissions to review and assess and make a plan for and then we need get to theatre to operate. Very little gets in the way of this process, few patients interrupt the flow.

Mr Smith (not his real name) was scheduled for a laparotomy, I had consented him and he was ready to go. We were popping in to say good
morning and to check he was ready for theatre.

What happened next has never happened to me before in a relatively long career of managing the sick and dying. He asked my consultant if he could pray, “of course, you don’t need my permission” she replied, turning to leave the room.

Mr S closed his eyes and bowed his head. “Dear God, bless this team that are here today and are going to operate on me this morning. Guide their hands and help them do their best. Take all the spirits of evil and death from the room and bind and banish them. Keep me safe in your care and love and help me face the coming difficult days with strength and courage. Thank you God for giving me the chance today to have this surgery and for the chance to cure me, thank you for these two women who you have given those skills and that gift to. Amen”.

The two of us had tears in our eyes, we had expected him to pray in silent when we had left the room. I couldn’t look at anyone, the nurse was openly crying, my boss managed to thank him whilst she choked back the tears and we all shuffled from the room.

I spoke into the dictaphone “Mr S is for a laparotomy this morning. He is consented and an HDU bed is available.”

Sometimes you think your job is shit and you don’t make a difference and nobody cares. Other days you stop and remember what a privilege it is and why you do it and how lucky you are.

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