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Mr. Smiles

by Alex Eksir


Alex Eksir

Alex Eksir

Year in Medical School:

Place of Birth:
Westlake Village, CA

Where You Grew Up:
Greensboro, NC

College Attended: 
Boston University

Major in College:

Goals (Medical School and Beyond):
Create ripples of positivity throughout the world by using my brain and brawn. Also, I want to be a pediatric something.

Pesonal Philosophy on Life and/or Medicine:
Life is short - no time to stop and think about it.

Favorite Quote:
This is Sparta. - The dude from 300



I still wonder what he is thinking about.  He can mutter simple phrases – “no!” is his favorite one.  He can also move his face a little bit – smiling is his favorite maneuver.  But is he happy – how could he be?  His basilar artery has let him down; his health has let him down; medicine has let him down; every time I walk into his room, I feel that I have let him down too.  There is no escape from his imprisoned body and his wife sits in his room, sleeps there at night, day in and day out and watches over the shell of her husband’s body, looking to the medical team for some hope that he might one day laugh, or even wrap his once strong arms around her and embrace her, comfort her and tell her everything will be alright.  After leaving the neurology service, my memory of this gentle old man faded.  The sadness and helplessness I felt vanished into the tornado of a busy schedule, an attempt to catch up on sleep, a rough pass through some studies, a bit of exercise and some precious time spent with my loved ones.

And then he came back – only this time it was different.  I had never known the man before the stroke; before the aspiration pneumonia; before he struggled to wrap his thick hand around ours and squeeze, showing us that he still has some fight in him.  This time it was different.  His wife was still there, watching, praying…begging for help with her big black eyes, but he wore his thoughts on his sleeve.  The room was filled with a new kind of strength – the strength to let go.  He could no longer swallow.  “Sir, we’d like to speak with you about putting a feeding tube in” one of doctors asked.  “No!” the patient thundered.  Before he even spoke the words, we could see the determination, the fearlessness, and the acceptance on his face.  I lingered behind after the team left the room and grabbed my old friend’s hands.  He gave me a wink and the best smile I had seen from him.

Medicine fills one with a determination to help.  I constantly want to fix things – but some things do not require hands to fix them; or pills; or machines.  Some aspects of medicine are so delicate, that there is no pathology book or fellowship we can complete in order to peruse those unpaved roads.  Rather, it requires some strength within ourselves; some spark or glimmer; some cell in some part of the body we have yet to discover, to be able to address these aspects of patient care.  Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do to help a patient is also the most simple – hold their hand and smile.

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Last Updated: 03-29-2012
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