Getting the whole story
When I went to see Peter in the post-operative ward, he was doing well. I still was concerned that I did not see any family member or friends.
During my rounds the next day, I talked to the nurse taking care of Peter. She told me he was doing well, his vital signs were stable, there was no bleeding from the drain site, and the nursing staff was surprised that he did not even ask for pain medication. When I visited with Peter, he was wide awake and told me that he was doing well. Again, I did not find any of his family or friends.
“Peter, how come I don’t see any of your family? Is anyone coming to visit you while you are in the hospital?” I heard my self repeating.
“Well Doc, let me tell you some thing, I didn’t tell you before,” Peter said calmly. “The only family member I have is my daughter who lives in St. Louis (about 150 miles north of our town). I haven’t seen or talked to her in two years.”
“What happened?” I was anxious to know.
“Well,” Peter went on, “Two years ago, one winter morning my friends and I were going deer hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest about 30 miles from our home. When I woke up that morning, I found my wife was in bed and not feeling well. I talked to her and she told me she should be OK and asked me to go ahead with my hunting trip. So, I went hunting with my friends and when I returned home the next day, I found her still in bed. I tried to but could not wake her up, I got worried and called the ambulance, they came by and told me she passed away and that was confirmed at the hospital. Our daughter came for the funeral and told me that had I not gone hunting when her mother was sick, we wouldn’t have lost her. She was very unhappy and upset with what I did and told me she did not want to see me again and she left. That is what happened doc, I haven’t seen her or talked to her since,” Peter concluded.
I felt bad for him, gently tapped on his shoulder, and told him with a sympathetic voice, “I am sorry.”
I went back to the nurse’s station and looked at his chart. I found his daughter’s name and telephone number in the front sheet under the “in case of emergency whom to contact” column. I thought about it for a couple of minutes and felt it would be better to let her know and dialed the number. I felt happy the phone was answered by his daughter. I introduced myself and told her I was taking care of her father. I explained the situation to her in detail: Her father had kidney cancer and had surgery for its removal, but he is doing well and is still in the hospital. I told her he was alone with no family or friends and would be glad to see her and have her company. She agreed and expressed a desire to see him. I gave her the details of the hospital location and her father’s room.
The next morning when I went to make rounds, I saw a middle-aged lady and a young girl at Peter’s bed side. The lady introduced herself as Peter’s daughter and the girl as his granddaughter. I looked at Peter and, for the first time, saw a happy face with a smile. He thanked me for bringing his daughter and granddaughter to see him and said that it was the best thing that happened to him in a long time. I gave him a gentle hug and told him I was happy too to see his family with him. I thanked his daughter for coming to visit her father.
Peter did well and was released home after four days to the care of his family. They went to his home and returned a week later for checkup. He was doing well, and the wound was healing well. I removed the skin clips and discussed the final pathology report with them. I reassured Peter that the cancer had not spread. I advised him to return in four weeks for check up. He said they were going to his daughter’s place in St. Louis.
Four weeks later, I saw Peter along with his daughter when he returned for follow up. He was walking by himself, had a good appetite, and was gaining weight. His physical exam was within normal limits. I reassured them and advised that Peter return for semiannual checkup. Peter and family again thanked me for getting them together.
Thinking about the entire ordeal with Peter and his family, I was very happy that I called his daughter and got the family together. I realized that taking care of a patient is not only treating a disease, but taking care of a human being with emotional, social, and spiritual factors as well as a concerned family. That is a lesson that was not taught in the medical school nor can be found in medical books.
Sivaprasad Madduri, MD, is a urologist with NorthWest Medical Clinic in Poplar Bluff, Mo.