I am on hospital rounds for my group this week, so began my morning at Fair Oaks Hospital in northern Virginia outside of Washington, DC. I had 12 patients to make rounds on this morning. The ages of the patients ranged from 35-90 and included diagnoses of pneumonia, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm), and a severe bleeding ulcer to name a few. I also take care of children. Fortunately children are less likely to become sick enough to require hospitalization than older adults are, so none were on my hospital service today. It always takes longer than normal on the first day to become familiar with the patients and their problems, so this work occupied my entire morning. I reviewed all of their charts, interviewed and examined them, reviewed their lab work and other studies for today, wrote my notes regarding their care, and made changes to their medications and ordered more tests when needed.
While the medical aspects are interesting, I often find people’s life stories even more fascinating. I am amazed and feel privileged with what personal life events patients share with me. One of the patients on my service today is a gentleman recovering from surgery to remove his infected gall bladder. I am assisting the surgeon in his post operative care by managing his high blood pressure and kidney disease. While interviewing him today, he explained to me that he was particularly worried about his wife. She was home and dying from a progressive neurological condition. He has been caring for her for years while she has gradually declined. Unfortunately, she died at home today, surrounded by her loving children, but not by her husband. His emotional pain is much worse than the pain from the surgeon’s incision. I feel that the extra time I spent by his bedside, holding his hand, and listening to his concerns and stories of their life together was much stronger medicine than anything I could put in his IV. One of my partners has been their family doctor for years. He is going to be a pall bearer at her funeral later this week. Being a family doctor is hard work, but the rewards are endless.