Sometimes, I forget…
There are two consistent flaws I have at work. Well, I know I have more flaws, but these two are tried and true over the years. The first is that I can never remember the sex of my patients’ babies – inside or out of them. While the baby is inside, it actually comes in handy. You never want to spill the beans when a couple doesn’t want to know the sex of their baby. I did once and it wasn’t pretty. Patients remember that FOREVER and tell all their friends. “We like Dr. Eisenberg, but be careful, she told us the sex of our baby and we didn’t want to know,” and then there goes my reputation. And now, with all the “reveal” parties and various “reveal” techniques and industries, it is even more important to keep it under wraps until the patient tells you to call their bakery so they can make the right color cake for the reveal party. Or they come in with bags to fill with either blue or pink confetti and then seal them up. (Yes, so if I’m running late, I probably am trying to not spill the confetti all over the floor and get the right color in the bag for pick up by the secret service). So fortunately for me, I see the sex on the ultrasound report, then “poof!” it’s gone out of my head. Embarrassingly, it is out of my head for the lifetime of that child and I have been known to ask patients how their daughter is when they have a son or visa versa. I’ve developed a technique to mask this though, I will ask how their child or kids are and then I’m safe. Hopefully, they answer with “she” or “he” and then I’m golden. Usually, when it comes to grandchildren, I’m let off the hook (seriously, how many generations am I required to remember?!).
On to the second flaw…. I can’t remember names. I can’t remember patient’s names, husband’s names, children’s names (I can’t even remember their sex for goodness sake, see flaw 1). Luckily, before I enter the exam room, I have a chart to look at with their name on it, so in this situation, I’m fairly safe. But then my patients trick me and get married and change their name. To torture me even more, they don’t always legally change their name right when they get married, sometimes it is a year later or for a recent patient, like 15 years later When this latter patient came in for her annual exam, I thought she changed her name because she was getting divorced, but no, it was a new job and she felt it was time to do take her 15 year old married name.
Recently, one of my patients, who was a nurse practitioner student, was doing her clinical rotation at my office with our nurse practitioner. She followed me as I saw patients and the entire time I introduced her as Heather instead of Natalie. I know, not even close.
The most difficult situation is seeing my patients in other places, like the grocery store or the park, and my family is with me. If my patient comes up to say hi, the introduction can be messy. Luckily, I have perfected the non-introduction introduction – “this is my husband Rick” and look to them to say who they are. It usually works. Worse yet, is remembering a patient’s husband’s name or even recognizing them when I have only met them once at the delivery of their child. One morning, while running with my group, a man came up to me “Hi Andrea, haven’t seen you in awhile,” or something like that and I feigned I recognized him, then fortunately, the group started running. I told my friends I had no clue who he was, my husband ended up running with him and told him my inability to remember him (yes, unbelievable, my husband couldn’t just let go of my charade, he had to out me). After the run, the unknown man came up to me again and reintroduced himself as a patient’s husband and then I actually did “remember.”
But let me tell you, dear patients, what I never forget about you:
After years of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, riding the wave of disappointment with you each month, I will never forget the day you came to my office with your newly-adopted daughter. You didn’t have an appointment, you just dropped by because you knew I understood what a momentous occasion this was for you.
After years of being single, thinking you would never meet the man of your dreams, I will never forget your excitement when you finally did and couldn’t wait to tell me about him. And then, only a couple years later, telling me the devastating news he died suddenly as I held you and your broken heart.
I will never forget holding your beautiful new baby daughter and then, 16 years later, telling that daughter she has herpes.
I will never forget your strength and determination pushing your baby out, then watching your strong, burly husband pass out as I handed him the scissors to cut the umbilical cord.
I will never forget when you found out I was running the Boston marathon, that you bought me a Zagat book of Boston and took the time to mark all the restaurants that you thought were good and wrote notes about what was good on the menu.
I will never forget the day you came in and as soon as I walked into the exam room, I knew something was wrong. You looked at me, burst into tears and said “my husband is having an affair, and you are the only one I can talk to.”
I will never forget the sleepless night, worrying about you after your difficult surgery, looking over and over again at the computer to see if there were any updates on you.
I will never forget the day I spent with you when you were convinced you couldn’t deliver your baby naturally and I stayed by your side reassuring you, and then eventually handing you your baby when you did.
I could go on and on. I have endless memories that fill my heart about each and every patient. You may not realize this, but I think about you when you least suspect, I worry about you, I rejoice with you, I laugh with you, I hope for your hopes. I hold your stories sacred. I will never forget you, dear patient.