Thursday, September 12, 2013

Unexpected Perspective

It was a fairly typical day, with an afternoon schedule full of patients and a meeting at the end of the day, the only significant mystery being how late I'd be to the meeting because of the perpetual time-creep that has me running several minutes behind (at least) by the end of the day.

One particular patient I saw today was not very interesting at all, almost downright forgettable.  He was so absolutely straightforward (both medically and with direct communication) that I finished in 5 minutes fewer than the time he was scheduled for.  He is seen once a year, takes one medication, has no side effects, has exactly the desired response to that medication, and has no other issues.  He is a very nice, professional man who works hard, is good at what he does, and enjoys grown-up leisure activities.  I gave him a new prescription, told him I would see him in a year--sooner if the need or desire arose--and moved on to the next patient.  I didn't dictate a note on our visit, leaving that for later in the evening so that I wouldn't miss [more of] my meeting.  My other patients were all far more medically "interesting" (i.e., complicated, and generally not something someone aspires to) than he was, and I soon forgot about our visit.

Fast forward past my other patients, my meeting, dinner, kids' homework, bedtime battles...I sat down to dictate the afternoon's appointments.  When I got to him, I noticed his birthdate.  He was born on the day I was diagnosed with diabetes, 24 years ago.  Over the years I've gotten used to just counting (though there were several years where I wasn't counting at all, the years just stacking up).  Though I've reflected a little on the number, I haven't reflected at all on the actual time represented by that number.  I  stopped before dictating, transfixed by his birthdate, and it suddenly seemed that I've had diabetes forever. Since I was diagnosed, he was born, learned to crawl, to walk, to talk, went to kindergarten, high school, college, work.  He shaves.  He votes.  He drinks.  He's married.  He has a kid on the way.  Suddenly I saw my diabetes as an adult itself, having grown through all of those stages, in a flash.  How can my diabetes be old enough to do all of those things?

In the end, completely unexpectedly and in a completely new light, he was the most interesting patient I'd seen not only today, but in a very long time.