Blog | Friday, February 16, 2018

Something beautiful


In my sweet 16-plus years as a Grady doctor, I have never seen it like this. I've never seen the hospital so filled to the brim with sick-sick people in need of our care.

Never.

Waiting rooms have become overflow patient areas. There are mobile units outside. Flu swabs are coming up positive and making even the healthy-healthy ones sick-sick. It's crazy.

At first, I was like, “Why not just close the doors, man?” But with each person I see, I ask myself where they'd go were it not for Grady. And since I know that answer, it pushes me to rally on. That doesn't mean it isn't tough, though.

No, it does not.

Times like this can burn you out. It can leave you walking like a zombie led by the one-eyed stethoscope, aimlessly placing it upon heaving chests. But if you pause for a second, even a second, you snap out of it long enough to see what is beautiful.

Just maybe you can.

Today one of our patients came back to the hospital. I cringed when I ran into him in the ER, thinking of all of the roadblocks it took to move for him to get discharged in the first place. The intern went to investigate it all and came back looking pretty hopeless. Given all the obstacles and low resources, there wasn't much more we saw that could be done.

But.

In stepped one of our Grady Emergency Department senior doctors. In the midst of that busy-busy day caring for the sick-sick humans in that ER, he hit that same pause button. He thought outside of the box and advocated for this patient in a way that almost defied belief, especially for someone who has worked here a long time. He found a teeny-tiny open door and pulled it all the way open. And that patient got a safe discharge and avoided a rehospitalization.

I get tired sometimes. Tired of the list of patients growing and never shrinking and tired of seeing people hurting. But these stories over the last week have sustained me. Intentionally working at this habit of reflection allowed me to see the patient-centered tenacity of a colleague in a time when I'd already given it in to public hospital inertia. I needed to see that today. I did.

Working here isn't for the eternal pessimist. No ‘tis not. But for those who believe deep down that hope can float and that fighting for a life involves more than fists, cardiac shocks and medications? It's just right. That's what I saw today.

And today? I feel like going on.

Yeah.

Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, FAAP is an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches medical students and residents at Grady Hospital. This post is adapted from Reflections of a Grady Doctor, Dr. Manning’s blog about teaching, learning, caring and growing in medicine and life. It has been adapted and reprinted with permission. Identifying information has been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.