Answer my prayers, O LORD, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. ~ Psalm 69:16, NLT
I have learned that patients look to their physicians to help them in making the important decisions that affect their lives tremendously. My philosophy of caring for patients has been the idea that, perhaps two or three times in one’s life, an individual will truly need their physician to get them through a crisis. All physicians have experienced their satisfaction in making the diagnosis that answers the question of what is causing this or that problem.
Yes, that diagnosis may be grave or even terminal; but a clear answer to unexplained symptoms will ultimately allow people to deal with the present and future, once it is known what the true issues are. Sometimes, a physician can help, even if there is no cure available. I recall once caring for a patient who had developed Alzheimer’s dementia. His physical health had declined so significantly that it was taking a terrible toll on his wife. She was guided by the promise made years ago that she would not place him into a nursing home.
But it was obvious that she was wearing down from the stress and strain of caring for him. This was affecting her both emotionally and physically in a tremendous way. I was aware of an opening in a local board-and-care home. I knew the owners would provide the loving and concerned daily care that her husband deserved. She could spend the entire day with him, but then return home at night to get rest and preserve her own health.
Over many years, I had developed a relationship of trust with her and strongly encouraged her to consider this as an option. Her decision to allow her husband to move out of their home occurred partly because of that relationship. It was a burden that was lifted from her, as she received the permission she needed to act before an acute crisis developed that would have thrown her world into chaos. Medicine is not always about diagnosing and treating disease; but it is always about caring for fellow human beings, and being right there when you are needed the most.
– Raymond Wong, LLUSM class of 1979-B, is associate professor in LLUSM department of medicine. He is clerkship director for internal medicine at LLUSM. He was president of the Walter E. Macpherson Society from 2003 to 2006.