Doctor as Patient

[NB: The following is the editorial reproduced in full from the Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine Vol. 50 No. 1 January – March 2012 issue, it was written byDr. Margarita Cayco. All copyrights remain with their respective authors and the Philippine College of Physicians]

I am the primary example of a doctor cast in the role of a patient.

This editorial is not a scientific or theoretical one but is my way of educating internists on another facet of medical care. To my medical students, may this article highlight to them that knowledge of the principles of medicine is not enough to practice medicine. It is also important to practice medicine in a humane way.

This article is the first time that I have put down in words my experience and my feelings about what happened to me. I hope the readers of this journal will allow me leeway in my choice of topic for this editorial.

I was hospitalized in late 2007 because of encephalitis, etiology unknown. I do not recall my symptoms prior to my admission. I was told I was highly febrile and complained of urinary retention. I ended up on a
mechanical ventilator because I was in a coma for several weeks and eventually got a tracheostomy, percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, a urinary cystostomy and had the requisite central lines. I had to undergo multiple lumbar punctures, phlebotomies and even blood transfusions. My case was a real meeting of minds which knew no boundaries or rivalries among graduates of different Filipino medical schools, just like my marriage to a UERM graduate (my being a graduate of UST medicine). My doctors were from UP-PGH, UST and UERM.

I was comatose for at least two months and thankfully I dot not remember anything that occurred in the intensive care unit. When I woke up I had to undergo rehabilitation (physical therapy and visual rehabilitation) for several months.

I owe my life to all my doctors, the residents, nurses and therapists and of course to my family, classmates, colleagues, friends and medical societies.

Being a patient made me realize what my own patients go through and gave me a firsthand glimpse into their sufferings. It made me sympathize and empathize more with them and made me more patient and understanding in my dealings with them. It makes it easier for me to discuss with them whenever the need for a procedure arises, especially a tracheostomy. I just show them my scars and almost always they agree to have the procedure done. I actually have not had a patient refuse a procedure after I talk to them. I tell
them that if I did not have those procedures done I would not be talking and walking now.

My experience as a patient was a humbling experience and hopefully made me a better doctor and teacher.

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About allen mallari

physician by profession, writing is his other passion. irregularly updates his blogs spread precariously over the web. he also has a penchant for the absurd, the sublime and everything in between. View all posts by allen mallari

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