Life lessons from a patient who survived 

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

Last week, I wrote about a patient of mine who almost died… twice. And I was there with him. I have been visiting him regularly and I am happy to announce that he is now stable. After a month of not seeing his wife, he is now at home with her. 🙂

The weekend before his final operation, I visited him the Friday before I went off to Stockholm. I told him I was going home to sing. He told me that he wishes he could hear me sing sometime. He told me he enjoyed jazz, and so I decided to learn “Fly me to the moon” by Frank Sinatra to perform it the same evening. I showed him the video the coming Monday and was happy to see him smile, laugh and slightly calmer before his upcoming operation. However as he was still nervous, I decided to follow and observe his operation, so I could be there with him as he lay there during his awake surgery. He was grateful.

 

Right before he went home, I visited him for one final time. As usual, laughter and words of wisdom were exchanged. Before saying goodbye, he asked for my name on a piece of paper so he would remember me. I wrote my name down and handed it to him as I told him his full name. I will never forget you either I said.

So to remember him not as a patient but as a person, here are a few wise words from him that I know I will bring along with me throughout the rest of my life. Things I learnt that is not because he was a patient, but because he’s a person caring for another. Note, most advice were aimed at my lovelife…

1.

Gör något som du brinner för. Om du inte brinner för det, sluta. Annars kommer du inte göra bra ifrån dig.

“Do something you’re passionate about. If you’re not passionate about something, stop. Otherwise, you won’t excel.”

2.

När du träffar någon ska det gå långsamt, så att du hinner se både fördelarna och nackdelarna av en person och kan göra ett bra beslut

“When you meet someone, take it slowly so you have time to see both the pros and cons of the person to make a good decision”

3.

När du är i ett förhållande är det DU som ska bestämma, så att allt går som du vill att det ska gå och du blir glad

“When you are in a relationship, it is YOU who should decide, so that everything will be how you want it to be and you will be happy”

4.

Gör alltid tid åt din familj, i slutändan är det de som alltid kommer finnas där för en

“Always make time for your family, because in the end they will be the ones who will always be there for you”

5. And last but not least my absolute favourite… (I hope you guys understand I’m always laughing each time he gives me advice on my lovelife)

Om han inte kommer eller gör någonting för din skull så är han inget att ha

“If he doesn’t attend or do anything for you then he’s no one for you to have”

Oh dear patient of mine, I hope you are enjoying your time drinking red wine with your wife at home. I will never forget you!

In the end though, what did I really learn? Medicine goes a long way, but empathy goes even further.

 

More than a patient

 

Being my family trade, becoming a doctor had always been expected of me. I had never allowed myself to consider other options. Because of this, I had always focused on how I was going to become a doctor, instead of why I wanted to become a doctor. And it was going well. Or so I thought.

Four years into medical school, everything was going as I had planned and better. But suddenly, I saw my life racing away from me. My life was getting closer and closer to the goal, but I was only at the starting line. I thought I was almost there, when really, I had never started. I had no fuel to start, with nowhere to find it. Because I had never known what it was in the first place.

Why do I want to become a doctor? Is it for me or for my family? Is it actually what I want to do? I had to find the answers to these questions, and I knew I couldn’t find them whilst I was in the hospital. I believe that sometimes you need to lose your way to find it. So I took a break.

On my break, I was fortunate to work as a gymnasium (high school) teacher for students studying to become healthcare assistants. I was able to use my experiences from medical school for my students’ learning and development. All the theory, and more importantly, all the stories I have from encounters with my patients. One day, a student came up to me after class. He said:

“I wish we could have you as our permanent teacher. When you talk, we can relate to the things you say and it makes it easier for us to listen.”

I was touched to say the least. I guess like what people say, if you speak with passion, people will care. People will listen. So it turns out, I was and am passionate about what I do. But it was only then when I finally realised what it was.

As a doctor, yes, I get to utilise my interests in science and yes I get to make a difference in people’s lives – but that’s not my passion. What I love the most about what I do, is that I get to be a part of people’s lives. As a doctor, I am given the gift of being entrusted into people’s lives. A part of their family and everything  else about them, even their thoughts, fears and dreams. For me, I don’t only get to treat the patient, but I also get to meet the person.

See, sometimes you do have to lose your way to find it. And I found it when being a teacher.

Everyone who I see when wearing my white coat, are all more than a patient. Being able to be a part of it all is the beauty of my profession, and is what makes me passionate about what I do. I want to share this with all of you, so on occasional Sundays (because #storysundays), I want to share you stories from my patients. Stories not focused on their disease, but what makes them more than a patient. Stories on what makes my patients people.