Heart of a Lion, Hands of a Woman: What Women Neurosurgeons Do
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Monday, August 9, 2010

My Patients: I am So Lucky

It was 7 am and there she sat, her two grown sons by the bed.  They must have left the house before 5 but she greeted me with the biggest smile.  In her regulation hospital fashion, she looked older and more vulnerable then when she visited me in the office and we made the mutual decision to proceed with her second major spine operation in 5 years. So I take her through my pre-surgical routine-check her medications, orders, consent and mark the surgical site.  I take her hand (I always do at this point) and say, "We will be going in the room shortly, we'll take good care of you."  Then I look at her worried sons and assure them I will be out to speak with them just as soon as the surgery is over.
I turn to walk out of the room when her voice calls me back.  "How is your garden this year?" and after my answer, "Did you have a good vacation? I can't wait to hear about your time with your mother...but we will have plenty of time after the surgery."
I leave the room and smile, amazed again at the strength of my patients.  At a moment when she could have been nervous beyond the pale, she was curious enough about me as a person.  I knew that for her,  being a person as well as a doctor was part of why she liked and trusted me.
Over the years, I have tried to ensure that I know something "personal" about every patient-perhaps something about their jobs, family, favorite books, or where they like to travel.  It serves as a constant reminder that they are people as well as patients.  By sharing little stories about myself, I hope they will feel a stronger bond, too.
I thought about this special lady all through her surgery and beyond.  Healing is a gift, and it doesn't always come from doctors.

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