and when she speaks
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
RIP Curt Stokes.Another friend that we've lost. In a span of 2 years, we have lost two of our people. People with big hearts and with so much to give. It feels so surreal. Walking out of the memorial ceremony held in honor of Curt, I felt shivers all over me. Being with all of Curt's friends and family- I saw and heard how selfless he was. How big his heart was; or should I say "is" - for what he's done will reverberate within all of us; resonate strong; and inspire us to be a better person. He is indeed selfless. The word that kept cropping up to describe him- kind. Kindness that you could see everywhere; in his eyes; in his laughter; in his smile that was wide and generous from cheek to cheek; in his warm bear hugs that he loved giving; in his voice when talking to anyone. He donated every organ in his body; including his eyes. His mother did not even know that everytime he went back home to California, he would drive his nieces/nephews to the movies.He sacrificed sleep just to be on the phone the entire night, providing emotional support to a friend; putting the other person's interest at priority. This statement from one of the attendings today I believe was one that touched us all; the reason why he would sit and place the IVs on the patients was not because he had to sit to perform the procedures, it was because (as Curt put it); he wanted to be at eye-level and personal with them; because he might be the last thing they see before they close their eyes. I think that sent chills down my arms; because who thinks like that? Only someone with a big, compassionate, empathic soul. Curt was that soul. His girlfriend said despite his hard childhood, being teased when he was young, growing up juggling financial duties during medical school even, he was excited every morning on his way to work. He made it to work every morning. He wanted to be the best he could be -every single day.He never resented the people who teased or bullied him, and instead, gave his all in being the best doctor and person he could be.
To Curt, you are an inspiration, a role model to the rest of us in medicine. "Today I was reminded of the importance of preserving one's humanity while practising medicine. Thank you and RIP, Curt Stokes, MD"- by Irene (a senior-heme/onc fellow) Jyoti: "Life is way too short...don't forget to tell your loved ones just how much you love them, to hug your acquaintances and to smile at strangers. RIP Curt, we miss you"I wrote this "RIP Curt. We will miss that infectious smile, the warm bear hugs, the silly tune that you break into to make us laugh, and that big heart of yours. You are selfless; and will be missed by all of us" - Hearing all the things he has done for everyone; and the giving soul that he had; I pray that his family is equipped with the strength to overcome this trying time- and know that he is looking down at all of us; knowing that we had with us; an amazing person with a wonderful heart; who has taught us all one thing; to serve others "tirelessly" and to aim at being the best we can be; be it in our jobs, at home with our loves ones in our relationships; and in living life to the fullest. RIP Curt. and to the rest of us, carpe diem.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I was on Palliative Care a week ago.I was given a consult on a patient whose name was familiar. When I looked her up, I soon realised she was someone I had taken care of - for 3 weeks about 2 months ago, when I was on the general medicine floors. I had grown to bond with her husband and her family, who were there everyday by her side- whilst she was fighting off complications from her disease; pancreatic cancer with metastases. That disease carries a grave prognosis. But she is a trooper, and her family is an amazing support.Collectively, she has made it through these past few months and done pretty well, despite the short survival rate these patients typically carry. Her objective is to make it through to see her son's wedding. Her indomitable sense of will and determined strength are factors that I believe more powerful than anything medicine can do for you; and I sincerely hope that that will see her through to her desired wish. Being on palliative care taught me a few things I never knew about the dying.1) There is such a thing as "unfinished business". There was a patient whose care was withdrawn after a painful decision by her family members. She made it through 3 weeks after her ventilator was taken off. She was waiting for something, and after it happened, she breathed her last. 2) Sometimes they hold on, painfully - because they know their family members are not ready for them to go. So they hold on to life, struggling and suffering. After some counselling from the Palliative Care team for the family, when they are ready to let go of their dying one, we let them know that they should tell their dying loved one that it is OK to go; that they grant the patient permission and reassurance to go, that they will do alright. Once that is said and mentioned, the dying ones usually go pretty quickly. I was scared at first when I heard of that. But it is true, again, I am sure, the human spirit and strengh is more powerful than anything medicine can do for them- to keep them going. The most common reason that these patients hold on is I find, usually in the name of family love. It's nothing like love for your loved ones- to keep you fighting, despite all odds, isn't it?Strange how the world works, but hey, you can call me a believer- but I believe prayers and the human spirit can withstand and accomplish anything, and surpass expectations. Anyway, back to my patient; they remembered me. Her husband called me out, fondly "You remember Dr. Lai?" to my patient.One morning, when I walked in with my boss and team from Palliative Care; he asked my attending "Are you her boss?". Dr Yeow nodded yes, and he responded "Dr. Lai here is amazing. You need to know that", whilst pointing to me- and that made my heart smile with so much warmth and gratitude. My prayers are with their entire family, for seeing her through to the wedding and perhaps, longer :) Keeping my fingers crossed- and yes, I AM a believer.