If death was the end zone, George had been on the one yard line twice in the last five years. And I, as part of his team of doctors, watched as he stubbornly maintained his goal line stand. Miracles rarely happen in medicine. They certainly don’t happen to the same person more then once.
Yesterday as George glided into my office you would have never known that eternity’s grip had been so close. He was the picture of health. Strong and confident. He walked with a lightness found only in those who have escaped the ICU’s tenacious grasp.
His complaints were minor. An ache hear, a pain there. Nothing extraordinary. Our conversation eventually turned social. After leaving the office he was going to his rental property to mow the lawn. It was a house. He owned it for years.
His current tenet, Jim, had moved in shortly after George’s first hospital adventure. A young man with two children. Originally his wife had lived with them but she left Jim and the children one quiet morning.
Jim, overtaken by depression, eventually lost his job.
There he was. Two children. No wife. No income. Living in a rental property with no hope of having money to pay the next months rent.
George clearly remembers the day sitting in his kitchen with his hand on Jim’s shoulder as the kids slept quietly in their bedrooms. Don’t worry about the rent. You’ll pay it when you’re able.
After all that George had been through, compassion was more a privilege than a burden. He would wait. Two years to be exact. Until Jim could cover the monthly costs. Another year before he would pay the past dues. But Jim’s children would grow up healthy and happy.
Looking across the exam table into George’s warm kind eyes I felt great pride at being one of his doctors. One of the team of people who helped him stave off the inevitable. Because George would then help Jim. And Jim would bring up two wonderful children. And Jim’s children would go on to touch other lives. Like dominoes my good intentions had helped start a reaction.
I believe George sensed what I was thinking. As left the office he turned and looked at me squarely.
We are all patients sometimes.
And sometimes we are doctors.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion.
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