Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Losing a Patient

I take care of patients with complicated medical illnesses.  Unfortunately, that means that occasionally my patients pass away.

One of my patients died a few mornings ago.

I met him in February.  He was an engineer and inventor, one of the brightest people I've ever met.  He had right heart failure, and was one of the few patients who knew why I look so closely at a patient's neck.

"How's my angle of Louis?" he would often ask as I looked at his neck veins to assess his right heart pressure.

He was one of my more talkative patients.  He would talk about science, research, often things that were a bit over my head.  He was dutifully compliant with his medications and kept meticulous records, though he occasionally indulged in foods higher in salt, which led to occasional decompensation of his heart failure.

He read my blog, because he'd ask me about my races and comment on my posts.  In particular, I remember him being very curious about my experience with supraventricular tachycardia and my ablation earlier this year.  I think he even posted an anonymous comment about my "ablative cardioversion".

I was also fortunate to have the connection of my medical school advisor being one of his closest friends.  He invited me to his home for lunch, which gave me the opportunity to reunite with my former advisor.  Seeing his home gave me more insight into who he was as a person and as an inventor.

But, it was ultimately other health issues that took their toll.  A compression fracture caused terrible back pain.  Cognitively, I could see him declining as he became less intellectual and less talkative at his more recent visits.  Most recently, swallowing became difficult for him and he was hospitalized due to aspiration into his lungs.

He was discharged home and passed away two days later.

He's a unique man who definitely left an impression.

5 comments:

misszippy said...

Obviously, this has got to be a really rough aspect of your job. I'm sure he was at peace with the quality of care he was receiving since he sought such a personal connection with you. I'm sending you good vibes!

Anonymous said...

Oh, how sad. I am sorry that this bright, interesting man died, especially since much of not all his cognitive function was intact untl very shortly before he died. I've never had to mourn a loss like that. All the deaths I've been close to have been in people who had completely lost their intellect, and personality, by the time they'd passed; in every case, I felt I really lost the person I loved long, long before the funeral. -victoria

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I meant "much if not all his intellect was intact." -v.

Vegan Valerie said...

This is a very tender post. Thank you for sharing your inner feelings with us...

Peter Thies said...

Our condolences