Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My Friends, the Superheroes

Today I realized just what superheroes some of my friends are, day in and day out. I happen to work for a group of surgeons and I also consider all three of them my friends (Two of them have been my friends long before I moved to Missoula).

I work as their Practice Manager, meaning I run their business. My office is across the hall from the main clinic and my interactions with patients are usually brief (when I'm across the hall and cross paths with them) or about issues related to patient care or their bills. I am not a clinician and I'm never involved with actual patient care. The patient care issues I hear about are usually related to appointment wait times, confusion (or complaints) about their bills or when they want to pay a compliment to our staff or the doctors. It's pretty cool to work in a doctor's office where the patients oftentimes bring in treats or send cards or make things (painting, carvings, etc.) for the doctors and staff. It's a testament to what good doctors and great people they are.

Today was a another rough day, in a series of rough days, for two of our doctor's, the ones who happen to be my close friends. One doctor got called into the emergency room of a local hospital for an incoming trauma; an entire family was involved in a terrible automobile crash that caused the death of a child at the scene, sent another one into the ICU with awful injuries and a third one to the ER where our doctor was called in to try and assist. The injuries were extreme to this young boy, who couldn't know that another sibling was somewhere else in the hospital struggling for his life. As our doctor worked on him he realized this child, if he was going to be saved, needed to get to Seattle and fast. And while all this was going on he became aware that the other sibling was "coding" at the same time. It was heart wrenching for him, to say the least. To have to speak to the parents in such a time of crisis and tell them they needed to send their child immediately by emergency flight to Seattle is just something I couldn't imagine. I happened to meet my friend, the doctor, on the street as he was coming back to our office...he still had an afternoon full of patients he needed to see and needed to give all his attention to: He looked pretty troubled and I asked him how things were going. As we talked about how heavy his mind and heart were, the helicopter carrying the patient took off from the roof of the hospital...it was totally heart breaking for me and I wasn't even involved in the process. To top this off, his colleague, another one of our doctors and also my friend, was seeing patients in our office, trying to use the same compassion and give them all his attention as well...yet in the past week he's had to inform two people they will not live because of cancer that has spread through their bodies.

Most of the time when people think of doctors they think about how much money they make. Doctors don't get much sympathy when it comes to financial issues as the general public doesn't see the exploding costs for doctors and has no idea about what they go through on a daily basis...heck, I've worked here for two plus years and it wasn't until that helicopter took off over my head and I imagined that frightened boy inside & his devastated family sitting somewhere in the hospital that I looked at my friend in amazement. What an unbelievable thing he does with his life and what a heartbreaking day he also must have gone through...all the time not letting his other patients care be effected.

As with every profession, there are good doctors, okay doctors, not so good and just plain bad. It just so happens that many of my friends are doctors and it also is the case they are all great doctors, great persons and they are all superheroes in my mind.
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