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John Labruyere


I had met him before, many years ago when I first arrived as an undergraduate.  This town is funny in that way; you feel connected to everyone if you stick around long enough and he had been here for quite some time.  The physician coming off night shift told me he would be a great patient to spend some time with, so I completed the rest of my morning rounds and saved his visit for last.

He had just arrived back to his room from a stress echocardiogram.  Despite the recent dobutamine infusion he still seemed groggy and out of sorts, but ever the gregarious host he greeted me with a firm handshake and a warm smile.  His wife, equally as warm and inviting as if I had just stepped into their living room, did the majority of the talking but was clearly putting on a good face.  Though he had been slowing down over the past few years there weren’t any huge health issues that they knew of.  He just woke up in the parking lot next to his car, and was assumed to be down for at least an hour.  Syncopal episode; it could be anything, could be everything, or nothing to really worry about at all.  Thus far all of the tests and scans and physical exams had been inconclusive.  They hoped this was a good thing.

We talked sports because that’s what you do.  More precisely that’s what he did.  That weekend would mark the first time he missed a game in over 25 years.  I heard about their lives and how they met, but mainly we talked about the season.  The boys had been playing well and the program was looking strong.  They invited me to come to the next tailgate if I had a chance and promised to take care of me and anyone else I brought along.  We carried along in that manner like old friends for quite some time.  The conversation eventually worked back to the matter at hand, the reason we were all joined in that small hospital room together, and the tone changed.  I summarized what had happened thus far and what they could expect moving forward.  Though they knew I couldn’t provide any answers they hung on my every word.  I did my best to reassure them and promised to take care of them while they were in the hospital.  I thanked them for their time and said I’d check back to check in on them once their next round of tests were completed.

After lunch I reviewed the results.  The MRI had been read and showed several abnormal growths throughout the cerebrum and brain stem compressing the ventricles with no mass effect that was indicative but could not rule out primary versus metastatic neoplasms, or some other radiologic jargon indicating badness.  Even though I wasn’t going to be the provider breaking the news to them I dreaded my return trip to that small hospital room.

When I reentered the room I found them in much the same place with the same warmth I had experienced before.  This time we got straight to business and discussed the results.  They seemed to have a firm grasp on the situation and would be following up with specialists in Florida.  Again, they hung on my every word.  I wanted to provide comfort and reassurance, and maybe I did, but all I could really do was reconfirm the unknown.  We didn’t talk outcomes or percentages but it was understood that what lay ahead would not be easy.  The game that weekend wouldn’t be easy either, but we liked our odds.  The team was well prepared and things had gone well thus far, so why wouldn’t the success continue?  We carried on in this way like old friends for quite some time.  When I left I thanked them for their time and promised to take good care of them.  Over the next couple days I spent more time in their room and talked about any and everything, including medicine and life.  I heard later that he passed at home with his wife by his side.




John Labruyere

Year in school: PA-2
Hometown: Asheville, NC          
Undergrad attended: Appalachian State 
Favorite quote: "I did it because I am free." – Bree Newsome

Last Updated: 02-28-2017
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