I still remember the first night I didn’t sleep the night through. Of course, there were random nights before.
How could there not be? Especially being at sea in the U.S. Navy.
But this night, was the night that began a chain of sleepless nights that has lasted uninterrupted for close to twenty years.
I had a patient who had come to me for neck and arm pain. There was something that told me not to adjust/manipulate his neck. I ordered and MRI, and treated him with therapeutic modalities addressing the shoulder and arm pain. He went for the MRI and was too claustrophobic for even the open machine. There was something nagging at me, so I spoke with radiologist, and had the order switched from MRI to CT scan. I could have waited and had his medical doctor see him and order the imaging with sedation. But, my gut said to go ahead and order the test.
The next day, the report arrived via fax. There was a cervical spine tumor pushing on the nerve root. The patient was scheduled for an appointment later in the day. I went over the results of the test with him and told him I was referring him to his medical doctor for further evaluation.
I offered to continue to treat his upper extremity symptoms, but I advised him there would still be no direct treatment on the neck until the type of tumor was determined and if it was benign or malignant.
The patient lashed out at me. I understood his anger, but for some reason, he blamed me for the tumor. He stated that if he hadn’t seen me, he would not have had it.
I understood his anger.
I understood the fear behind it.
I let him yell at me. I even took the spittle flying in my face without flinching.
That night, I saw his frightened and angry face, more nights than not, I still see it.
The very next month, a student of mine asked if I could help with her headaches. At the time, I didn’t treat my students. I gave her the names of other doctors.
About a month later, after class, she pleaded with me to see her. She was getting no relief, and worse, no answers. I asked if anyone had ordered an MRI, she said she was told it wasn’t necessary. It was at that moment, I decided to have her come to the office. Her cranial nerve exam had two irregularities. I sent her for the MRI.
The next morning, on the fax machine, was the report. I had her scheduled for an appointment. I had to tell her she had a brain tumor. A tear raced down the cheek of this twenty-year-old girl.
I had to tell her, what her medical doctors failed to diagnose.
I had to tell her, at the tender age of just twenty, she may have to undergo radical treatment.
I had to tell her, that I had no answer for the why.
I referred her to another medical doctor for the care she would need. She left the office that day and I never saw her again. Well, not in person. That night, her face joined his — visions of fear-based anger and fear-based sadness took my slumber.
Twenty years, and thousands of patients later, I still see their faces.
Added to theirs, are those of the six women I had to tell they had multiple sclerosis. All missed by their medical doctors.
Added to theirs, are the faces of those who did not follow my treatment plan and got worse.
Added to theirs, are the faces of those that no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not help.
Added to theirs, is the one I strongly advised not to have surgery because I believed the risk was too great and that I was confident I could help. The one who had the surgery, and now has a life-long, surgically induced, progressively deteriorating disability.
I wonder — did I try hard enough to convince her?
The sensitivity that allows me compassion in my profession, and the ability and empathy to create such flawed characters in my writing, is the same sensitivity that does not allow me to get a full night’s rest.
“Who am I?”
I am an independent, self-published teller of tales. I am an author of scarcely any renown. However, as a storyteller, I know who I am, and with that persona, I am both confident and comfortable. I invite you to visit my website, ShortStoryScribe.com and/or Amazon Author Page, if you are so inclined please purchase a copy and leave a review.