COMMENTARY

Live Your Life Right. Care for Your Patients.

Christina M. Sorenson, OD

Disclosures

March 07, 2016

She wasn't at the crosswalk this morning. Where was her smile and wave and the red and white hexagonal placard? Maybe the aged crossing guard was at a doctor's office sharing stories of all the passing cars she waves to while ferrying schoolchildren to and fro. I think of her open smile and imagine her sharing stories with the staff as she waits at the doctor's office.

I've heard so many touching, wonderful stories of love and loss and joy during my years of patient care.

My morning begins with an elderly woman in my examination chair. She starts to nod off as I bring the slit lamp over her lap. Gently, I tap her arm. She smiles before she raises her head upright.

Then, before opening her eyes, she asks, "Can you see the cherry pie on my glasses?"

"No," I answer.

"Well, that's good, because last night I fell asleep at the dinner table and planted my face into my cherry pie! All the old ladies at my table cackled for a few minutes before helping me with the pie. Dang it, I wanted to eat it, not wash with it!"

My patients, like this one, often evoke the sentiment of whether I have lived right or whether I am doing the job that I was intended to do. Her chuckling about the loss of her cherry pie speaks of an entire life of experiences that allowed her to laugh and share this mishap rather than become angry or embarrassed.

A husband who recently lost his wife utters, "She was more of a woman than I am a man." He shares his respect, love, and loss.

A long-married couple comes in. As they leave, they state, "We both have cancer and don't want to waste another moment at a doctor's office. Thank you for your kindness, but this is goodbye!" I watch them depart hand-in-hand with warm smiles on their retreating faces. What does it take to have this grace?

Another patient, a retired attorney, says, "Getting old is not for me. I keep for—four, five, six, seven. See what I mean?!"

He laughs at the play on the word "forgetting." Instead of saying, "I keep forgetting," he starts counting from four.

"Very punny," I reply.

These few vignettes bring a slow smile to my face.

Caring for your patients is often much more than providing medical care. It is also much more rewarding. Each day seems to provide us with the opportunity to live it right.

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