Dear Future Physician,
Have you ever tasted barium contrast, magnesium citrate or golytely, liquid iron, prednisone or flagyl? You know it won't make you sick if you just taste them, so don't be afraid to try. I will be forever grateful from the day my doctor took a sip of CT contrast before me, because I was afraid it would make me gag from the taste.
Have you learned about the fight or flight response yet? I'm pretty sure you have. You know, being sick is a big stressor in one's life, some of your patients will be real fighters in front of their disease. Some will prefer to run. I was that kind of kid. I literally ran away from my doctor's office once, at the age of 10. I was a difficult patient; my doctor wouldn't get straight answers to his questions and sometimes, not even an eye contact. I was so scared, I didn't want to see him. I didn't want to look at him because it was just as if I were looking at my disease. It was my defense mechanism. There are a number of them, and remember they are there to help the person to adapt to a new situation. When it comes to an illness, it's a very scary situation, trust me! My doctor did not force things, he let me come to him. Today he is one of the most significant person I have ever met. You know, us patients already have to find a way to get a new balance, we have to adjust our life to our disease. You, on the other hand, have to adapt to your patients.
When I'm sick, I sometimes feel out of control, or even powerless. There are ways to comfort your patients. Be calm, smile, listen, take your time. I always appreciated when my doctor sat down on my hospital bed. Or when he put his hand on my shoulder. One day, while in the hospital, he brang me a popsicle because I was unable to eat, and he had one for him too. I felt so special! And I loved to talk about my new dog, and the recent software on my computer. It made me feel as if I were a real person, not just one thick medical file!
At school, you learn the 5 stages of grief, how to structure your interview, all the theory. Once you get on the floors, you'll get into action. Emotions are hard to learn in textbooks; there are no protocols, no guidelines to follow. Follow your heart, show empathy, respect your patients. We are all humans trying to carry on with life, but we all do it in different ways.
Renee, age 21
Dx'ed with Crohn's disease a few weeks after turning 10.