Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Hundred Thousand Years

The comments on the Suicide Blog post build up..someone wrote about childhood, and I started thinking about how times goes by so fast now, and how childhood seemed to last forever. Let me quote a paragraph from Catch 22 by Joseph Heller:

"A second ago you were stepping into college with your lungs full of fresh air. Today you're an old man /../ A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon."

That's just so amazingly powerful writing that I always get chills when I read it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Defenseless Doctors

Original photo by Stuart

This post was inspired by a post on Richard Winters' blog.

A famous person was admitted. She had a major bleed in the brain. Initially, she had no pulse and was not breathing. She was succesfully resuscitated, and admitted to the neurosurgery ICU. A cerebral aneurysm was found, and operated succesfully. After 2 weeks of intensive care, she regained consciousness, and was discharged from the ICU after 3 weeks. She had almost total amnesia for the first few weeks, and slowly started recovering. She went through extensive rehabilitation and was finally discharged from the hospital after several months.

She recovered extremely well. In fact, she recovered so well that she was able to return to her high-profile work, and she gave several interviews on TV and in magazines. In the interviews, she told the harrowing tale of how she was treated inhumanly in the hospital, how she was forced to lay in a bed with her hands tied down, how she was asked the same questions over and over, and how no one ever explained to her what was wrong with her and what her illness was. How the hospitals are horrible, cold places where patients are stripped of their humanity, how the doctors are cold cynical people who are not sympathetic to the suffering of their patients.

Looking at her interview on TV, we were stumped. Having worked very very hard indeed to bring her back, practically from the dead, then to see her in such good health and at the same time putting us down like that, it was mixed feelings to say the least.

Fact is, she was so demented during the first weeks, and confused for a month or two, that she had to have her hands tied at times so as to prevent her from pulling out her breathing tube or iv's and from injuring herself. Her illness was explained to her every day, often several times a day during that time by nurses and doctors with infinite patience.

Her comments initiated a public discussion (again) of the miserable state of health care, when she was in fact a success story.

And how did we defend ourselves? We didn't. We can't. We are bound by doctor-patient privilege and cannot make any public comment on such matters. We never can. The discussion is always one sided. Doctors and nurses do their job, then shut up and take the heat, move on.

New in the blogosphere: Ask the Doctor Forum

Sleep of the Just

It's not always easy being a neurosurgical fellow...just ask this guy.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Great Fly-Swatter of God

More than a year has passed since the Tsunami. I'm reminded of a patient of mine who lost her whole family in the disaster. I mentioned God's fly-swatter in a previous post, and I tell you, God's been having at it again. For not only did she lose her husband and two children in the Wave, she was later diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, which means she will join her family within months. And not only that, but she had been treated at our clinic for a difficult chronic pain syndrome for the past 10 years.

Tell me everything has a meaning.