Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Truth And Nothing But

I met the nervous young patient in preop.  She was fidgeting in bed, having a difficult time laying still.  Her anxiety was extreme.  Her friend next to her attempted to calm her down, "Don't worry.  Everything will be fine."  But the patient was not easily soothed.  She pulled her blanket up to her face, almost covering her eyes.

I introduced myself.  She had a million questions about her anesthesia.  "Will I be awake or asleep?"  "Will I remember anything?"  "How will you know if I'm not completely out?"  On and on.  I was starting to get irritated.  It's nice when patients have questions about their medical care but sometimes my patience can run a bit short if they come at me like an interrogation session at Guantanamo Bay.

Finally she asked the money question, "What happens if I don't wake up?"  To which I replied with a wink and a smile, "Well, then you'll never know, will you."  They both gasped in shock.  Then her friend cracked up hysterically.  The patient was not as amused.  I explained that my job was to be in the operating room to make sure everything will be okay.  The operating room is filled with equipment to ensure the safety of the patient; we are not giving anesthesia in somebody's private bedroom.  She smiled just a little bit. "Are you ready to get started?" "Yeah"  "Okay, then let's go."

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