President Trump, Finally, Displays Empathy

President Trump Finally Displays Empathy

I tried to make it through the Sunday morning news programs today. The only one I managed to get to was ABC’s This Week. There seems to be an effort by the news people, especially Martha Raddatz, to divide President Trump and Dr. Fauci when it comes to a potential drug, or drug cocktail, treatment for COVID-19.

Anyone who has read anything I have written knows I have a great deal of admiration for and confidence in Dr. Fauci and have been unimpressed with President Trump’s early handling of the current crisis. If you have talked to be in person, you know how pissed off I am when it comes to the President.

With that in mind, I can’t believe I am about to write this, but when mentioning the potential treatment, on this issue, President Trump is handling it the better way.

If you have a moment, please read on.

Dr. Fauci is the foremost expert on infectious disease. I am ecstatic he is with the NIH and we have his expertise advising the President and keeping us informed. The thing is, it has been a long time since Dr. Fauci has been, for that matter if ever, in clinical practice. When he is giving information, he is giving it to a pool of reporters or a camera. He is more an academic researcher than clinician. That mindset requires data and hard facts. What he calls “anecdotal” we in practice refer to as “case studies.” Sometimes what occurs in a patient care situation can be reproduced in a controlled setting, other times it can not. For the academic, if it can not be reproduced, its value is negated – to a clinician, if we see it working on actual patients in our offices or treatment facilities, well, we don’t give a shit what the research says, we are using whatever means necessary to get people well.

The President is trying to give hope to people who are scared. It is the first and only time I can honestly say I believe the President is demonstrating empathy for those with whom he is so out of touch.

If you have another moment, please continue to on.

I can only convey my experience as a clinician. I have not been a pure academic and I have never been a researcher – I need what they do to make clinical decisions, but in the end, I am the one who needs to make the call. And since I am a chiropractor and not a medical doctor, my decision making lacks the ability to prescribe drugs, or do surgery, but I need to be aware of those options, and the best specialist available if necessary to make a referral. My patients turn to me to make the call, not the academic in the classroom or the researcher in the lab. I am the one they trust. And it is an honor and responsibility to which, above all else, I am committed.

I have been in practice for more than twenty years, and in those years, I have treated more than five thousand patients. Out of all those patients, I remember the ones I did not help the most. I may not remember their names or faces, but I remember their conditions, and those I could not help, have allowed me to become a better practitioner, and have taught me both the limitations of my chosen profession, and the limitations of my own skills and abilities.

Out of those few hundred I could not help. I remember seven specifically.

  • There are five women whose medical doctors missed their multiple sclerosis.
  • There is the first person I ever had to tell had a tumor on his spine. Yes, there were others. I remember his anger as I told him, and how, in his anger he blamed me, because I found it.

Those experiences taught be to be thorough, and just because the patient had been seen my other doctors, did not mean all diagnostic avenues had been explored.

      • But there is one, one who wakes me from my sleep at least once a week.

If you will indulge me one moment more.

She was twenty years old and in my medical terminology class. One occasion, she stayed after class and related to me that she had been having headaches for more than five years, she had seen her family doctor, a neurologist and a pain management specialist, and yet, she couldn’t get any relief. At that time, I did not treat students, it was a policy of mine, one which changed after her.

I referred her to a colleague, and she was treated for several weeks, still with no relief. I finally agreed to see her as a patient.

While gathering her medical records, I was using a protocol recommended to me by the man I always credit with teaching me how to be a chiropractor, Dr. Violini. She was having positive results, but still, not as good as I hoped. As I read five years of medical records, I discovered not a single doctor ordered an MRI.

Considering the severity and chronicity, I ordered the diagnostic imaging.

As I am typing, in my mind’s eye, exactly as the dream the hits me once a week –

– In my old office, she is sitting in a chair directly in front of me. Her face is smiling, she has been doing better. I am sullen. Up to this point, other than the headaches, she is a happy twenty-year-old young woman. I take a deep breath. I see her mood slightly change. She knows what I am about to say isn’t going to be good.  

“You have a brain tumor.” I soften my voice, but that doesn’t soften the words.

As was then, I see it, a solitary tear streaks down her left cheek, over her chin and down her neck, it is soon followed by one from her right eye. Then there are so many, one can’t be distinguished from the next. Sobs soon become wails. For the first time before, or since, I reach across and bring her head to my shoulder. In no time, the fabric of my shirt goes from tear-stained to translucent.

In a voice that I somehow managed to keep steady and calm, I told her all would be okay, although I had no idea if that was the case. I had arranged for her to be seen by our area’s best specialist. He didn’t take her insurance, but I convinced him to see her at no cost.

She ended up going out of the area for treatment, and sadly, I never saw her in my office, or class, again. I don’t know how she made out. Even though I don’t remember her name, I have never forgotten her face.

The point of writing this?

Sometimes, hope is all the frightened have upon which to hold. For all of his many flaws, in this matter, President Trump is trying to give hope, and for all of his excellence, in this matter, I think Dr. Fauci may have forgotten just how important hope can be.

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