Shout Out to the Castaways!
What keeps me going? Why have I not finished the “Longmire” series on Netflix? Well, it’s because of the “castaway” patients. Those patients who have not conformed to what we expect to find using “standard” medicine.
It’s for those patients that defy traditional diagnosis, and typical response to treatment, and are ultimately marked as mentally ill and given anti-depressants. You know who you are. You are talked down too or being patronized because there is no way standard medicine doesn’t have it all figured out.
It’s for the patients that have seen more specialists than they have fingers and toes. I just talked to another patient that I had referred to a specialist for an issue that was definitely outside my wheelhouse, and I wanted an answer to an abnormal lab. The patient never got the question answered and were referred in the process to 4 other specialists who have ordered over 10 additional procedures ordered (most of which had been done in the recent past). They actually became angry with her when she refused! I guess that they didn’t know the adage she did, “to keep repeating the same tests and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” I am so sorry that the experience is not unique, but is the norm anymore.
It’s for the patient who thinks that there will never be a solution to their problem despite knowing there is a bigger picture that is just not being seen by all the specialists who have compartmentalized every problem and cannot see the forest for the trees. The bigger picture, that is quite discernible with just listening, escapes the medical profession which is rewarded for volume and testing.
It’s for the patients who have stuck with me for years in hopes that I gain enough new knowledge to address their unique issues. Those who wait on me to connect the dots. I truly thank you, the patients who have believed in me and our therapeutic relationship when I felt like a failure. Your tenacity was infectious and often that patience has paid off with me having that “ah hah” moment. Your faith in me and my burning desire to heal and not lose to ignorance is a huge motivator to become more than I am as a healer.
Thank you to all of you for making me a better doctor. It’s not our successes as a doctor that defines us, but our “failures,” how we respond, and what we do to overcome our limitations in understanding. I am batting better than ever because of you. I will never bat a thousand which is unrealistic I realize, but I am batting a hell of a lot better than average because of each of my patient’s uniqueness and trust that I give a damn and I am always going to be working to understand you as an individual with your own story. “Longmire” can wait. I am learning too much with the “castaways”!
Dr. Nathan Morris, MD