Thursday, May 03, 2012

is this the real life, is this just fantasy?

Yesterday, I received a page from a nurse that a patient was trying to leave against medical advice. Since I am not as cynical and hardened as I may sometimes come across, I went to find out what brought all of this on.

The man was fully dressed but for the IV in his arm, which was still dripping heparin, a blood thinner, into his system. The man had several clots in his lungs back in December. He was treated for them in the hospital but was supposed to take a pill, warfarin, at home for about six months to keep the clots from worsening. He forgot to take the pills here and there, and came into the hospital this time with big clots in his heart. Pretty dangerous, to say the least. Now the man was annoyed and wanted to leave.

I asked him why. He said the hospital was stressing him out and all he wanted to do was go out and smoke a pack of cigarettes. I tried to explain that smoking was the most likely culprit for his clots forming in the first place, and certainly we couldn't let him wander off to smoke while he was hospitalized. He said that was fine, but then he wanted to be discharged immediately. We stood there at an impasse, despite several volleys of arguments. I was the evil physician vilifying his smoking, and arguing with him even though his mind was made up. He was the uncooperative patient who did not seem to care that he had a life-threatening condition that could kill him if he left the hospital. I tried to strike up a compromise and offered him a nicotine patch. He laughed in my face and offered me this compromise- 'if I'm still alive, I'll come in tomorrow, and you can admit me again then.'

Since we don't run a prison ward, I had to let the patient leave of his own accord. It was extremely frustrating. But it struck me that this seems to be the quintessential dilemma, always, everywhere. Two versions of reality. Both of us convinced the other is deluded. I recalled so many times I've tried to change someone's mind. I'm not saying one shouldn't try- some things are obviously wrong (Kutcher, I'm looking at you). Still, when I think of all the heartbreaks I've had in life, they are all boiled down to someone not understanding me. Yet really the problem was that those people did not agree with me, did not see things my way. And as much as I can claim to see things from the other side, to empathize and relate, it doesn't really matter, because on some things people are simply of two minds and they cannot be reconciled. That's what I'm trying to accept.

As for the man, I just hope he lives to return to the hospital, truth be told.

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