Blog | Monday, March 26, 2018

Get (TF) out


I used my softest voice. Tender and earnest. Made sure my body movements were slow, gentle and nonthreatening. You'd been through so much already. And even though your distrust and refusal to cooperate with nearly every doctor who'd stepped into your room was so unwavering, I knew that NOT seeing you wasn't an option.

“You'll probably get kicked out,” someone said.

“We'll see,” I replied.

And so I went.

“Hi there.”

Your eyes flung open, suspicious and glaring. “Who are you?”

“My name is Dr. Manning. I'm the senior doctor that's going to be taking care of you.”

You stared. Didn't say anything.

“How do you feel?”

Still nothing.

I asked two more questions and you shut me down. “I don't know you,” you said. “You could be anybody.”

“I could,” I responded. “But I'm not. I'm your doctor.”

The next things you said made no sense. They flew out of your mouth and splashed against the walls and floors. I tried to grab them up and make sense of them. But I could not.

I could not.

“May I examine you?”

“No.”

“No?”

“Hell no.”

I didn't know what to say so stayed silent.

“Can I--”

“Get out.” That's what you said. Then you said it again. “Get the fuck OUT.”

Which is what I did. As you turned up the television, rolled on your side and refused to look at me.

Two hours and some change later I came back. This time you were nice. Like, super nice. Like none of that had ever happened. You complimented my hair and my shoes. Then said it was really nice meeting me. Then you asked me for some strawberry Boost and a ginger ale. And the name of where I got my boots.

The interface between medical illness and psychiatric illness is one of the hardest parts of my job. They wrestle each other to the ground and when they aren't on the ground they play a hellacious game of tug-o-war. It sucks. A lot of days it really does.

But I signed up for this. And you? You signed up for nothing. So I'll keep coming back. Again and again I will.

Before I left, I placed three things on the bedside tray table in your room:

A ginger ale.

A strawberry Boost.

And a piece of paper that said, “Frye. But they sell them on Amazon or eBay for cheaper.”

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.