Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The words of gods.....

A comment to my last blog prompted the title of this post. Now, I don't see physicians as gods. Perhaps a handful of doctors reign godlike over their domains, but most physicians I know understand their fallibilities only too well.

The commenter told his doctors that they BECOME gods to scared patients in pain. He stated, "The words of gods must be chosen carefully and be with the clarity of a god." Meaning, I think, that he wanted to be fully informed by the doctors who hold his life in their hands.

People with catastrophic diseases, those facing surgery or even simple diagnostic testing need information from the doctors and nurses responsible for their care. I wonder sometimes if medical professionals empathize with the shock, horror, and fright their patients experience when thrown into the confusing maelstrom of a modern health care system. Most people are not versed in human disease processes. All they know for sure is that they DO NOT WANT the disease, pain, heart numbing fear, surgery, and a body image different from the one they've had since birth. The only thing that helps frightened, suffering people in the slightest is compassionate teaching and explanations from the doctors and nurses they are forced by circumstance to trust.

Patients may be too shocked and scared to understand the words doctors and nurses speak, but they do sense an underlying kindness and compassion. They see the body language as a doctor speaks, hear the tone of voice, hold to any offering of hope and assurance. No communication is effective unless the patient understands. When a nurse or doctor says, "Do you have any questions?" the patient may not know enough yet to ASK a question. I'll use my sister as an example.

When doctors gave her the option of taking oral chemotherapy and radiation before surgery, each one said essentially the same thing: "I've seen tumors break up and shrink considerably with radiation." Granted, they did not PROMISE the tumor would shrink but that's what she heard -- the carrot on a stick, the hope of a tumor shrinking down to nothing. Nobody told her the radiation would burn soft tissues in the area of the tumor and she would suffer horribly with that. No, when she complained of horrible burning in her vaginal and anal area, she was told by technicians, "Hmm, you're the first one who ever complained of that." Really? The only one? If she had known healthy soft tissues would be "fried" by radiation, her decision might have been different because she ultimately found out that radiation did nothing to shrink the tumor.

Despite her long ordeal, my sister is a brave woman and presented a humorously courageous front to caregivers. But her words told anyone listening what her fears were. The outcome of radiation and surgery horrified her. She's only one of hundreds of thousands of patients shocked and horrified each year. In that respect, the commenter to my original post hit the proverbial nail on the head:

"The words of gods must be chosen carefully and be with the clarity of a god." Patient education is not effective unless it educates, informs, and lessens fears.


AstonWest said...

The clarity of the one true God being as it is in some cases, one has to wonder if some doctors aren't just as clear...

But indeed, doctors need to be clear about everything they tell a patient. It took me three or four tries (and surgeries) before my doctor finally gave me a list of dietary restrictions I should have been on since the first one.

Don Yockey said...

Thank you for touching the subject with words from thought & kindness.
My last time with the doctors will soon be here...then I can live again for a time...Having known others with the same ordeals, we have agreed that life comes to a halt during the treatments and so forth, those days,weeks, months cannot be replaced but in learning more about ourselves during that time does help to make us betterpeople for ourselves if nothing more, this I do believe.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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