So yesterday I lost a patient. He was in his 60s, homeless, poor, disheveled. He had suffered though very bad heart disease. He kept getting admitted to the hospital frequently. He went through his doctors like someone with a cold goes through tissues. He had refused all invasive options for treatment due to his own fears. And so he kept butting heads with countless physicians who tried taking care of him and tried changing him. But to no avail. For some unclear reason our paths crossed and he chose me to be his physician.
He kept his appointments with only me. His noncompliance with medications became worse. He was always pleasant, cordial with me, and so a trust was forged. I did not judge him for his lifestyles. We would briefly chat about other things in his life, and I would try to gently nudge him about the options available yet respected his decisions and so I diligently worked with him to keep taking the medications whenever he could remember. He knew that I had only his best interest at heart. At our last visit a few weeks ago he remarked ” Thank you for looking out and caring for me:.
I was woken up early this week at 330am by the ER informing me that he had returned to the hospital and was heading to the intensive care unit. My colleagues saw him later that day and arduously this week.
He called me yesterday in the morning from his bed while I was at the office at 10am. He wanted me to know that he was in the hospital and he was not too keen on the treatment options ( like he had always told me). I reassured him that we were taking good care of him and that I would see him soon. He has never called me from the hospital before, even though I have seen him both in the inpatient and outpatient settings. I put the phone down and smiled as I was glad to hear his voice. Later that afternoon into the early evening I was informed that he suffered a cardiac arrest and died.
His fate had been sealed years prior when he refused invasive treatment. He had been living on borrowed time for at least 5 years. His death was quick and a mercy at best. His lifestyle was getting worse exponentially as was his health. So why do I still think about him, knowing that this was the best way to ease his suffering? I am grieving for him ? No . I have worked on many “grief” sessions with clients and with patients to see that once the body dies, it is the consciousness that simply transforms into the people around us. I look forward to seeing his qualities ( a tender heart, his gruffness, his longing for connection ) all show up in other forms in other people.
Then I realized that despite I know the fragility of human life and the human heart as a cardiologist, and as a metaphysician I know that nothing lasts forever and how the universe transforms everything energetically, yet my human mind was having a hiccup of awareness that life can also be so fleeting. One minute we are here, and then the next we are not. The wheel of time continues without a break in its tick. The reflection of this transformation of mortality I see within myself and ponder my own existence and then non existence.
Whose and how many lives would I have touched? If I could do it differently what choices would I have made? How can I change in this moment? What can I do to prolong my longevity? So many questions run through my mind in this moment of writing this piece.
Yet If he came back for a few moments I would simply say ” Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your doctor. I did my best. You did yours. I wish you well on your journey home.” I said this to him in my mind and heart as I drove home. I then recalled little tidbits of informations that he told me about his life. He had been a nurse till he lost his family and home. Who knew this information to keep his memory going? Is this how we live on? As fragments of data in a medical record or in someone’s heart or by the service we provide to transform people’s lives and shape the world?
Much for me to learn from this experience. Thank you my friend for giving up your life and making me face these questions to better myself and the lives of others with whom I share this story. Each of us have our own answers to these ponderances. I would suggest we spend some time thinking about them and seeing whether our life in this moment can be transformed and how we can assist others to transform theirs. It is only through the constant self evolution that we dare to shape a world.
I love you