The Year Long Patient

Will held my hand with his own;

I could feel the calloused skin which turned dirt for years-

Growing a living out of the earth

Finding water where there was no rain,

Making shelter where there was all sun.

He turned my ear with his sighs;

I remember him stumbling over the phone buttons

As he asked me to call his wife

To tell her the truth of his health,

That he’d likely not make it home with his life.

He caught my gaze with his eyes;

Eyes that had been taped shut through

Procedure after procedure after procedure –

Eyes that had blinked through

Seven hundred and thirty tea times on the ward,

Eyes that had seen through

Over a thousand changes of nursing shifts.

Will shared his own hopes;

Telling us that he was still there –

Trying to fight as hard as he could,

That we should leave no avenue unexplored,

No options unconsidered – a battler til the last

He held on that day – when all hope was crumbling away

As his family kept vigil by his side

Two days later he did know it was his time to go

And he left us with an ache in our heart.

Run down by the black dog

The black dog came and brought her down
It tore down all the wall
She still looked bright up til the day
We didn’t see her fall
But just because it wasn’t seen
It didn’t stop the happening,
the black dog ran and ran its race
so Hope would seem unraveling.
Oh what we’d do or what we’d say
If only we had it another way…
We’d put the dog down if we could
But that’s not how it can go
Maybe if we’d all stop to sit
The face of it would show.
We couldn’t catch her as she slipped
between our ignorance and her pain-
But maybe we might bring hope to life
by learning how to love one another over and over again.



In tribute of a young doctor who committed suicide in the last week.

The Vowels of Confusion

I love medical mnemonics and here is one I learned today for causes of confusion!:

A: Alcohol and drugs -> opioids, post anaethesia, endone etc.

E: Electrolytes

I: Infection -> UTI, chest infection, wound infections

O: Other medical -> Cardiac, respiratory or CNS change

U: Urinary/faecal retention

If doctors were not called doctors, by what other name would they be known?

S.W., the senior RMO sat on the edge of the bed, leaning forwards towards the small figure draped in crimson wools. “And how are you today?” The tone of her voice was not one of boisterous comradarie, nor of contempt. It was quiet and thoughtful and interested in the answer.

The white haired lady looked at her, a small smile gracing a face lined with the softness of age and the weariness of the wise. “Quite well…”.

She did not speak of the bilateral femoral fractures she suffered or the unstable bimalleolar fracture of her left leg. She simply said it was rather hard to “hop around”.

She did not speak of being widowed, nor her recently deceased son in law. She just spoke of the hope of going home “soon”.

S.W. smiled and spoke gently,”We all want to see you get better. We all love you and care about you. We are strangers. But that is the beauty of it, you know? We’re not your daughter or your sister but we can help take care of you until you’re well enough to go home. That’s what life is sometimes, strangers who can connect and love and take care of each other.”.

Her patient looks at her with brighter eyes, hands open, “The people here treat me well. They are lovely.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask us for anything,”

The two women pause to at each other, strangers yet familiars; both in a moment.

I stood, watching the exchange. I took in S.W’s subtle consideration and encouragement of her patient. Her situation was tragic, but there was beauty in the moment. It is difficult for me to capture or explain why exactly it was so profound. Even reading what I have written now, my words do not adequately meet the memory.

It was a more important lesson than what results were on the bloods tests or the need for an ECG to check for potential pulmonary embolism in a recent post-op cardiac patient with past history of deep vein thrombosis. It was a lesson in taking time to talk, to listen, to encourage and just spend moments being with patients as people, not cases. It reminded me the difference between a competent doctor and a competent and compassionate doctor.

If doctors were not called doctors, by what other name would they be know?