One evening when I was an anesthesiologist in charge of preoperative anesthesia evaluation, I went to see a patient who was to have spinal surgery the next day. As I walked into her room and saw her lying in an awkward position, I thought she must be in pain.
As I interviewed her, she started to tell me her personal story. She said she watched her husband die suddenly of a ruptured aneurysm. When the paramedics arrived, he was still conscious even though he had no blood pressure. She said she didn’t even have time to say good-bye to her husband. Her story struck me because my father, who suffered pain and became disabled from spinal stenosis, also died suddenly, and I did not have a chance to say good-bye either. My heart crunched, feeling the pain she had had in the past and the pain she was having then.
While we continued to talk, she expressed that she had had quite a few anesthesia complications with her past surgeries. Though she suffered much, I found her words were not those of complaint, but of narration. Again her words resonated with me. What else could be worthy of complaint after such a life and death experience?
Because we both had experienced sudden loss of a loved one, I felt personally connected to her. I found myself spending extra time to address her every little concern.
The next day, although I was not the anesthesiologist directly in charge of her care, I felt compelled to be involved in helping my colleague deal with her anesthetic issues in the operating room and in the recovery room.