Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I saw a woman in clinic recently that really made me think.

The visit got off to a poor start, as she was steaming mad that she had been kept waiting and had verbally abused every staff member on her way in. Attempts at getting a history from said lady were met with "isn't it in the chart?" or "duh" and the like. But she eventually calmed down and after the anger passed, we actually had a meaningful visit. Turns out she is a grandmother that has been through some rough times. She lives in a neighborhood where young children carry guns and use them with reckless abandon. Her son was murdered by his best friend. She raised two kids by herself with minimal income. When her children with serious medical problems that needed expensive medicines that she needed to steal when she couldn't afford them.

For her to have gotten to today in one piece, mentally and physically, is a miracle. I have utmost admiration for her strength and her remarkable dedication to her children. And while she's not the most pleasant patient in the world, I'm not surprised that she angers easily. She is a survivor. It's been her against the world for a very, very long time. And while some may not agree with her past actions or her choices in life, I dare anyone not in a similar socioeconomic/environmental situation to try and imagine what this poor soul has gone through.

photo credit


Blogger therapydoc said...

I don't know. Of course we have to be empathetic, goes without saying, but this is the type of snippet of life we see ALL the time, and I personally think it's okay to label it as dysfunctional.

Like I'd say, I know it's horrible, I know it's rough, I know that life has been unkind, but when you yell at people they think you're crazy and you get LESS respect, not more. Which is true, right?

7:17 AM  
Blogger wandering visitor said...

sure, it's dysfunctional. And counterproductive. I mean, it's sad that people become that way, because they're stuck in a rut and can't do things that would help themselves get along with others/get ahead in life. But in meeting her, and getting to know her as she opened up, it was obviously how hard life had been for her...

12:14 AM  
Blogger Gorthâur the Cruel said...

"Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses, are they still in operation? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor then? I was afraid, from what you said at first that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned - they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there. If they would rather die, they had better do it . . ." -Scrooge

The elderly, the sick and the poor are still hidden away in our society, as if it is all their fault for the way that they are. A society and a people are judged by how they deal with the afflicted. This is not something that can be legislated or wished away, but is a person-to-person issue. Is not the power in your actions that you cared enough to give the gift of your time - to listen? To listen long enough that she felt that you cared and was calmed for it?

7:46 AM  
Blogger Jose said...

We've all taken care of and been challenged by this patient. She is beat down by a litany of challenges, including her own maladaptive behaviors, that are bigger than any one of us can address.
People need to be reasonably healthy in order to work effectively and have functional relationships. Sorting through her elaborately concocted request for an early refill of percocet might be the least fulfilling part of my job; however, being privy to her life story and vulnerabilities, and having the unique opportunity to perhaps be the one to remove poorly managed chronic illness from that list of challenges can sometimes be the most fulfilling.
(Hope you're well - thanks for keeping in touch!)

8:57 PM  

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