I could see through the two window shields into her car. Her forehead creased into a petulant frown and she mouthed the words over dramatically.
Five minutes earlier, I was packing up my papers at the nursing home when my pager went off. I fumbled for the desk phone, my arms constrained by the bulky winter jacket I had just climbed into. I tapped my feet and waited impatiently for someone to pick up the line.
Hello, hello Dr. Grumet? I think she’s dying. Can you come now?
The ICU nurse sounded panicky. It was early in the morning and the critical care specialist wasn’t in the building. I jumped out of my seat and sprinted toward the car. The trip was less than a mile. I turned onto the expressway and then made a right onto to the nearest exit. I stealthily navigated a series of small streets punctuated by a stop sign. As I came to the intersection another car pulled up facing me. Seeing her right turn signal and knowing I was going straight, I made a superficial attempt at stopping and then rolled through.
While passing, I could see the anger seethe from her lips for my failing to abide by the most basic rules of the road. She was furious. I felt like laughing. If she only knew that I was racing to the hospital in the most dire of circumstances.
It was a matter of perspective. But I couldn’t be too angry.
Hadn’t I been just as guilty? How many times had I shook my head disapprovingly as an elderly patient hobbled into my office thirty minutes late? Had I fumbled with the icy certainty of arthritic joints or the Himalayan distances crossed in the parking lot, maybe I would understand differently.
It is shockingly easy to regret the futile decisions of a panicking family when it’s not your loved one lying in the hospital bed.
Perspective and empathy. Different sides of the same coin.
The women in the car was right.
I had been everything she hauntingly accused me of.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion.