Monday, September 1, 2008

A sick doctor

I probably feel sicker today than I have ever felt in my life. I know that it is the medication and that my body is trying to find a new balance. The side-effects continue to mount. The tingling in my feet has now spread to my legs and I just feel, overall, unwell. Wellness is something we take for granted and don't really notice until it flees us.
I have this constant gnawing in the pit of my stomach that I can't really differentiate between hunger or abhorrence for food. The constant foul taste in my mouth makes all food unpalatable, and I find I have to force myself to eat. This concerns me as I really need the nutrition.
As I go through the twice daily ritual of of taking my medication, I find myself staring at the sorted drugs on the table and my throat reflexively closes. I have to 'trick' my esophagus to accept the pills with some other food, like cookies or applesauce.
I really only feel good when I am lying down, which I have done a lot in the past few days. I catch naps during the day, but remain wide awake at night.
The drugs are now affecting my concentration, making even dialing a phone number a challenge. As I lay in bed awake my mind wanders to strange places. I was contemplating the myriad of forwarded emails that people seem to circulate listing pithy phrases and 'feel good' scroll-downs and thinking how most of them are like a bite of a Butterfinger, momentary sweetness, but without substance. I began to compose my own banal list, but prudence stopped me; my mind, currently warped as it is would include such phrases as, "Sitting in a dark room is like a day without sunshine", or "Pictures of kittens are cute, until they become feral cats and attack you in your sleep".
When I finally do fall asleep, however, the effect causes vivid dreams. I dreamt that I was finally back to work in clinic and I was so far behind seeing patients that I was working late into the evening and the middle of the night. It was 4:00 A.M. and the hallway was pitch black so that I had to physically escort the patients to the front door. In the darkness I ran into Dr Chiu, (he is my partner and tends to work late). I thought that was funny.
I share these only as examples of how being ill can effect us. There is this underlying anxiety that I will never feel better. Intellectually, I know that this is not true. I will get better. But in the moment, you cannot deny what you feel.
Above all, I know that I am not alone. Every person that has been ill knows what I am going through. The important thing is that this teaches me to be more patient with my patients. Most of the time, what sick patients really need a listening ear, a caring heart and understanding.
Boy, do I understand now.
I hope that the memory of this will serve to make me a better doctor.



Anonymous said...

Bishop, I had brain surgery three years ago and am now just recovering from Spinal cord surgery. Not to the extent of you but I too now have a foreign object my body is trying hard to get rid of but get used to at the same time and the medication is the pits. I have been out for about a month now and I will tell you it does stink but it also gets better.. Your a heart patient, I am a brain/spinal cord, different yes in some ways but the same in many others. I miss you guys and love you guys so much. Hang in there be tough and know you are not alone.

Lisbeth Fugal

Anonymous said...

oh dad...your phrases made me laugh. haha. i really hope you start feeling better soon!!! we've all been learning and growing from this experience. you will be better and you will be home soon. i can't wait! i miss you so much. love you!

- rebecca