Wherever I look, there&s a bond with patients

September 3, 2001

Unique expressions of gratitude have forged a strong link between the author and those she serves.

 

A Medical Economics Web Exclusive

Wherever I look, there’s a bond with patients

Unique expressions of gratitude have forged a strong link between the author and those she serves.

By Lourdes Romano-Jana, MD
Rheumatologist/Erie, PA

Our practice is dedicated to geriatric cardiology and rheumatology. These two realms of medicine have given us enduring relationships with our patients; they’ve shared with us their family stories and treasured memories, both happy and sad. They’ve also shared their talents and passions, and those are on display throughout our office.

In return, we try to make their office visits as pleasant as possible. A covered ramp leads from the handicapped parking area to the waiting room. Inside, our office is so cozy that few patients mind spending an extra couple of minutes in the waiting room during busy times.

The walls are painted a soft shade of sky blue, and the chairs are sturdy yet comfortable enough to meet the diverse needs of our patients. The hallways are wide enough to easily accommodate the flow of wheelchairs, walkers, and stretchers. Pop music is absent here; instead, the melodies of Bing Crosby and Perry Como fill the air. A goldfish quietly makes his way around the aquarium; a table with fresh coffee and homemade cookies stands nearby. For those who aren’t comfortable around other patients, or for relatives who bring young children, there is a private alcove away from the main waiting area.

Most significant about our office, however, are the gifts from patients that decorate the waiting room. Some are souvenirs from exotic places, others are special projects handcrafted in someone’s garage.

Mr. Andrews (I’m not using real names), a woodworker, gave us a solid wood finial. Now he’s making small wooden crosses that can be attached to a cord or string and worn as necklaces. He gave me a snowflake this year, as well.

Mrs. Winters presented us with two wooden candleholders with glass globes as a present from her husband, who had recently passed away. She remembered his special request to give them to the doctor when the time came. The candleholders are perfect on the mantle above the office fireplace. During Christmastime, we place a wreath between them. The red ribbon entwined in the wreath contrasts nicely with the candleholders’ dark polished wood. The rest of the year, I display my crewel embroidery of a bouquet of flowers in between the candleholders.

On the sill of the east window hangs an oval suncatcher that Mrs. Allen made of clear acrylic. Fluttering across it are two butterflies, with blue-tipped wings and yellow bodies, and a bluebird. The suncatcher gives a pleasant feeling of summer warmth even in the bleakest winter weather. Mrs. Allen lovingly detailed the butterflies’ wings despite the ravages of advanced renal failure.

At the upper right corner of that same window is a cascade of clear bells with colorful beads, carefully fashioned by Mrs. Bean, whose hands had been deformed by rheumatoid arthritis. The bells were recycled contact lens keepers, but one would never guess that from the way the light shines through them on a sunny morning.

Mr. Shepherd was a superb carpenter and woodworker, and he contributed a great deal to the ambience of the waiting room. His creations include a carving of a duck with its bill hugging the angle of the window. Each of us in the office has one of his small carvings–such as a donkey with a cart hitched to it that serves as a planter, complete with wooden wheels.

One Christmas day I was surprised to see two white wooden reindeer grazing in the yard outside my office. They were compliments of Mr. Shepherd, who made them in spite of his dyspnea due to coronary artery disease.

There are other objects from Mr. Shepherd that my family cherishes: three miniature rocking chairs with my children’s names carved into them, and a red wooden train pulling a cart filled with real-looking coal.

Mrs. Capel had a very bad hip due to arthritis. She asked for clearance to accompany a friend to Europe and visit the beautiful shrine honoring Our Lady of Fatima. When she came back, she brought me a bottle of blessed water shaped like the saint. From time to time a patient will ask if she can have a sample of the blessed water; the bottle is now nearly half empty.

Mrs. Daniels gave us a spider plant that is still thriving and getting fuller. We have several artificial flower arrangements made by three different patients, all for different seasons. Christmas potpourri enclosed in a crocheted fabric star with red satin ribbons on it, made by Mrs. Zagaris, decorates the ultrasound room.

A patient who is a painter reproduced a painting that hangs in the office, a Canadian harbor scene. (We supplied the materials.) We gave the reproduction to a couple, both patients of ours, for their 50th anniversary.

I can go on. These patients have taught me that a practice thrives not only on the skills of its doctors, but also on the unbreakable bond that must be forged between physician and patient. Ars longa, Vita brevis. (Art is long, life is short.)

 



Lourdes Romano-Jana. Wherever I look, there’s a bond with patients.

Medical Economics

2001;17.