The humanity of healing: Doctors are people, too

As I sit here reviewing charts in my office, I came across a link to a story someone sent me that really embodies the heartbreak all doctors are faced with at some point in their career. The story bares a dramatic photo taken by an EMT of the moment a doctor became grief-stricken outside a hospital where he had just lost a 19-year-old patient. It clearly illustrates the humanity of this man.

Sometimes people, governments and bureaucrats forget that doctors are human, too. We have feelings, and those feelings create scars that stay with you for a lifetime when faced with the profound sorrow of losing a patient. They shape the individual to be a better person and a better medical professional. And this is something that applies to anyone in the health care field – whether it be doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc.

This photo dredged up old memories for me of one of my first experience with the loss of a patient. I remember being a young doctor on call at the ER during my residency at a hospital in New Jersey. I was part of the trauma team. One night, a young man, just 18 years old ended up in the ER after he was struck by a car trying to cross a major highway. There he was, this beautiful young man – once, you could tell, so full of youth and life — bleeding and unconscious. I rushed to intubate him and get him stabilized as the surgeons prepared him for surgery. Shortly after his arrival, his family filed in crying, hysterical — you could see the pain in their eyes. The young man ended up in the intensive care unit that night after what we hoped would be life-saving surgery, his parents holding vigil outside his door.

During the course of the night, I was summoned to the ICU unit to take care of other patients, and every time I came out, his parents would ask me if their boy was okay. Each time, I would tell them he was … until the third time when I had to deliver the news that he had not survived.

I remember sitting inside the elevator that night crying hysterically – the pain was overwhelming. But I kept going.

So you see, the scars that we endure as doctors keep us going. At my ripe old age of 57, I have many. This is why this story touched me to the point where I felt compelled to share my thoughts. Share it with others and try to remember that no matter what you hear on the news or other media, I don’t know of a single health professional that wakes up in the morning thinking about how to hurt someone, but rather, we wake up thinking about how to heal.

And we understand that we may get hurt because the divinity of the human body is created, protected and revived only by God. Doctors are mere pawns in this cosmic life, but we have feelings too.