Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winning and Losing

Today started out less happy than most days. I got a call from a patient who had a serious problem - a problem I had been worried about developing. Part of the problem was brought on by the medicine I gave to my patient. It was a known risk, one that I felt was outweighed by the benefits that were experienced. My patient agreed with that, until we both realized that the opposite was true. The natural adverse effect of the medicine was worse than either of us expected. No harm is done, it is all completely reversible. The patient will, in the end, be fine. But the hardship and emotional stress was more than expected, and I was a contributor to that. Chalk one up in the "Loss" column.

But later in the same day, I checked my inbox and found a magical piece of paper. It was a radiology study result that another patient and I had been waiting for for over a month; the patient had in fact been waiting for about the past 6 months for someone to make the diagnosis and get this magic piece of paper in their hand. And today I got it. The results of this test explained some very concerning and dangerous symptoms, and more than that offered hope of a cure of these symptoms. It was very good news and a long time coming. Chalk one up in the "Win" column.

This is life now. Wins, losses... Big wins, and big losses. But more than that, each win is a patient, each loss is someone I am responsible for. The gambles, the risk/benefit analyses I go through each day end up affecting someone else in a large way. This is not news to me, but this is the first time that I have had such a stark contrast in the same day. The gamble for one patient did not pay off, while the roll of the dice on a diagnostic test for another patient was completely successful. I am thankful that, to this point, I haven't had to gamble with someone's life. But I know that it is coming. And days like these make me one step more prepared. But it is still humbling, still intimidating, and incredibly challenging. I am just hoping that I stack up a whole bunch more wins than losses.

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