Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Over the weekend Mrs. Parker had us cleaning out the closet in the home office.  In doing so we came across the operative reports I had dictated as a resident.  They consisted of a 3 foot stack of 81/2 by 11 inch sheets.  I had resisted the call to discard them in the past giving excuses that I may need the reports for privileges in the future.  Given the amount of time I have been in private practice that argument rang hollow.  So I spent several hours shredding that pile of paper (have to be HIPAA compliant, you know) .
What a trip through memory lane. 
I would read a name and reflect back on that patient.  The ones who we snatched from the edge of death, and the ones we accidentally pushed over the side.    The old man with pancreatitis that we resuscitated for two straight days and thought we had turned the corner.  Only to have him get caught up in a cycle of sepsis and hepatic encephalopathy and watch him die slowly over 3 months.  The 25 year old with a severe liver laceration damage control laparotomy the first day and multiple trips to the OR.  She lived to become addicted to narcotics. 
I read of operations done with attendings and residents I would gladly let operate on my spouse or children, and those I wouldn't trust with my worst enemy. 
I read of new and novel therapies that held promise in a journal article, but fell apart in the harsh light of reality.
I had touched these patients in ways their own loved ones had not, and I hope they were helped by it.  Each of them taught me something over those five years and I was the better for it.
Five years of one's professional life in a 36X81/2X11 inch stack of paper.    Just about 5 32 gallon lawn-and-leaf bags after it had gone through the shredder. 
The trash guys didn't pick it up .
If you live in Georgia, don't forget to vote today.

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