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My Letter to You

Phillip Smith

It was during my first anatomy lecture when I was told on my journey towards becoming a doctor, my very first patient was you. You were my very first patient. The word “patient” describes the ability to wait without being annoyed or anxious. Like the sick and injured, the coughing and weak who wait to be seen by the doctor, You waited and waited. You waited patiently for me. You were patient, nearby you sat quiet and alone. For what? For me to touch your shoulder. For me to make you smile. For me to make you laugh. For me to get to know you. For me to speak to you. For me to ask you for help. And most of all you waited and waited, for me to save your life.

I shared small group with you. I shared lecture rows with you. I sat next to you in BAP. Despite such, I was never close enough, to hear your silent cries. I neglected you. You gave me two years, but I left you waiting too long.

Before setting foot on the wards, the young physician in me has already experienced what it feels like to lose a patient. Remember you were my very first patient. Where did I go wrong? Was it the learning environment in which I trained? Gosh, my curriculum did not prepare me for this! No, nevermind there is no one to blame but myself! Yes, all my fault. Exam after exam, slide after slide, page after page. Trust me I had the mnemonic memorized; I was able to recognize “SIG E CAPS” on STEP 1 with ease . . . but for you that wasn’t enough; I needed to know more.

How did I miss the signs? As I reflect I did notice your weight loss, and then there was that funky haircut you returned to second year with; yup that was saying something? Gosh, and that cute grey suit you wore to orientation last Monday, you looked so beautiful! But that was all I noticed, I should have paid more attention.

I mean at the time I thought all those things where benign. Unfortunately I was wrong. Now I know, those were your silent cries, your attempts to self-medicate. You were crying out for me to come save you. As I reflect maybe I did see your tears; maybe I did hear you cry, but I guess . . . I guess I just simply chose to ignore them. Instead I left you there waiting. Too caught up in my own priorities.

You, my very first patient, I took your patience for granted. And because of that now a different mnemonic comes to mind: “UGA, UAA, UAG”: U’ve Gone Away, U Are Away, U Are Gone.

Goodbye Kaitlyn.


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Last Updated: 05-30-2013
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