Thursday, October 14, 2004

BUS (Big Unit In Sky)

Today I found myself running between two rooms. In a day I’d like nothing more than to forget I went between a patient with dismal disease and one with horribly dismal disease. In one room, I told a patient’s family and him that he had cancer, that it is very advanced, that although he is still walking and feeling ok he probably won’t be for very long. In the other room, I was trying to convince a family to sign a DNR order on a patient with advanced cancer of a different type. The patient is going down the tubes as we speak and will very likely jump the BUS very soon. There is nothing I’d like more than to let her do that and not end up on some ventilator wasting away.
I find that this month I have had more than my share of tearing people’s heart out. I’ve watched husbands nearly collapse at the news of possibly losing their wives. I’ve watched old ladies cry to me to save their husband.
In a world where doctors are supposed to be perfect and everything is supposed to be curable there are just dismal diseases that we have no answer for, at least not yet.
After these last two weeks I find I am getting more comfortable with the word “Cancer”. I am no longer affected by its consequences. It’s true meaning as it relates to my patients lives and to their family’s life elude me now. I have become automated, a sort of desensitized machine. At the same time, I have trouble falling asleep at night. I find that I try to avoid seeing my dying patients. Even consciously knowing what I am going through is really not helping me cope with it much. They are not necessarily my failures but they ask for help every day and every day I have to remind them just how helpless I am. There just is no cure, not for them. Whether I am still able to save myself remains to be seen. In this world where doctors are perfect and are able to cure everything. Who is here to care for the doctors?