Throughout my geriatrics rotation I have met elderly individuals from all walks of life. While they have taught me many lessons, there is one that sticks out above all else….compassion and patience are some of the best medicine a physician can offer.
Mrs. S is a pleasant 92 y.o. nursing home resident. Upon arriving to the nursing home I was directed to her room to evaluate her new onset abdominal pain. According to the nursing staff, Mrs. S had been having excruciating abdominal pain all night long and yelling out to the nurses to come help her. When I walked into her room, Mrs. S was laying in her bed, still dressed in her nightgown and reading a book. I asked about her abdominal pain and she began to describe a very severe pain, but couldn’t give me any further details. As I proceeded through the history and physical, Mrs. S continuously interrupted me to tell me stories about her family, particularly her grandchildren. You could see her eyes sparkle with pride with each story she told. She also told me about her deceased husband. Sitting next to her nightstand was a photo of the two of them which she proudly admired. She felt lonely without him and prayed for the day when they would be together again. She also began to ask me questions about my family and wouldn’t proceed with the interview unless I told her about myself and my life growing up in Peru. It truly gave her joy to hear about my family and my aspirations in life.
By the time my history and physical had finished, I had spent nearly 1 hour sitting by her side. I was touched by her life stories and experiences. I told her that I needed to finish our visit so that I could continue to see other nursing home residents that day. I asked her again to describe for me her abdominal pain. She merely looked up at me with a coy smile and said “What abdominal pain? I feel fine.” It was at that moment I realized that you can treat a patient’s symptoms with modern medicine, but it is just as important to treat their heart and soul.