Me: "So. . .Ms. Hodge. . .uh. . . what exactly were you doing when this happened?"
Her: *smirks and does a body wave in her bed* "Getting it ON, baby."
Me: *chuckles and shakes head*
Her: "Oh, I'm serious."
2/ Her: "People thing jest 'cause you up in age you ain't got no desires. But that ain't true, see."
Me: *nodding* "I hear you, Ms. Hodge."
Her: "You better hear me! 'Cause I be GETTING mine--even in my 80's."
She snapped her fingers and did another body wave.
3/ Her: "How old are you, Miss Manning?"
Me: "I turned 50 last September."
Her: "You got a lover?" *squints eyes*
Me: "Uhh. . .I guess my husband. . is uh. . my lover."
Her: *curls lips* "Well. I hope y'all be taking care of each other." *does body wave again*
Me: "What questions do you have for me?"
Him: "None. I'm straight."
Me: *nodding*"You straight?"
Him: "Straight up."
Him: "Man. When I got to the hospital? Shit was straight crazy."
Me: "Straight up?"
A wave of mischief twinkled in his eye.
2/ Him: "Straight up, doc. That ambulance said they was coming here and I was nervous. I was like, 'I ain't been in a car wreck. Take me someplace else.' No shade."
Me: "And they took you straight to Grady didn't they."
Him: "STRAIGHT to Grady."
3/ Him: "But real talk? I was wrong about y'all. Y'all got me straight."
Me: "See? And here you was thinking all we could do was car wrecks and traumas.” *pause* “Now you just have to keep all these appointments straight."
Him: “Hey is that primary doctor you got me straight?”
You: “They stay talking’ ‘bout how everybody could get that shot if they want it. All they got to do is walk in.” *making air quotes* “But that’s some bullshit.”
You: “That AIN’T all you got to do.”
You folded your arms in a huff.
2/ You: “Like, you go up in there and it AIN’T straightforward. ‘Specially at the regular pharmacies.”
You: “I mean, not if you ain’t good with filling a bunch of stuff out on line. Plus you got to have certain information.”
I stayed quiet. You went on.
3/ You: “I mean yeah, it IS some folks who dead against that #COVIDVaccine—but it’s a whole bunch of folks that would get it if it wasn’t so got-damn hard.”
Me: “So, like what would be best? In your opinion?”
Them: "You need to steer clear of Ida."
Me: "Which one is Ida?"
Them: *head gesture* "The one talking to our attending. She's legendary for going off on interns."
Me: *swallows hard*
Them: "Look. She even checks attendings."
2/ Ida's hands were animated as she talked. I noticed the way her biceps bulged at the meeting of her scrub sleeve when she moved her arms. Her head was up and eye contact deliberate.
Him: "Where was medical school?"
Him: "Oh--wait. Where is Ma-Hahry again?"
Me: "Um. Oh. Meharry? It's in Nashville."
Him: "That's right. I knew a guy who went there. He was nice."
Me: *awkward smile*
2/ My attending looked to the other intern on my team.
Him: "And Mick--you went to Michigan, right?"
Mick: "Go Blue."
Him: "Don't say that too loud in Ohio!"
Him: "I almost went there. But I knew my parents would disown me so I changed my mind."
3/ Him: "Do you know *names of several people at Michigan*?"
Mick: "Oh yeah! *One of the people* retired this year."
Him: "Really? He's one of my heroes."
Mick: "Totally. And *other person I never heard of* was my attending for my sub-I."
Him: "Lucky you."
1/ You: “‘How do you even know how you feel? You’re still young.’”
I listened in silence as you reflected on the response your parents gave when you told them who you are. And because they were seemingly older and wiser, you said OK.
But you knew. Even then, you knew.
2/ Me: “When did you know?”
You: “I feel like I knew for a while. But for a long time I kept telling me what they kept telling me.”
You: “I’m young. And that maybe the right person hadn’t come along yet.”
You: “Yeah. Damn is right.”
3/ You stared straight ahead and sighed.
You: “A piece of me wishes my family was just fully opposed, you know? This quasi-openmindedness combined with this idea that I was ‘too young to know’ sucked.”
You: “Then again. . . I don’t know.”
I'd just gone hard on some #motivationalinterviewing about smoking cessation with a Grady elder one day. We talked about his grandbabies and his life. We even talked about his "nature."
He was looking deep into my eyes--like it was really resonating.
2/ Me: "Well?"
Him: "Well what?"
Me: "What're your thoughts?"
Him: "My thoughts 'bout what?"
I groaned. He was tickled.
Me: "Sir! About quitting smoking?"
He raised one eyebrow at me and laughed again. This raspy, gravelly chuckle.
Him: "Miss Manning?"
3/ Me: *listening*
Him: "Tell me. Have you ever had somebody piss you off on a hourly job real, real bad--then step outside, flick your lighter, and then take a good, hard drag on a menthol cigarette?"
Her: "Um. . . the family invited us to the funeral. Dr. Manning, how do you handle something like that?"
Me: "Like what?"
Her: "Like being invited to a patient's funeral."
Me: "When I am, I'm honored. So if I can go, I go."
Her: "You do?"
Me: "I do."
2/ Her: "Should I go?"
Me: "Do you want to go?"
Her: "I do."
Me: "Then let's go.”
Me: *smiles back*
And so. On a wintry Saturday, we met up at our patient's church. And from the countless cars surrounding every inch of the building, the love was evident.
3/ "Loooord...help me to hold out...until my change has coooome. . ."
Those are the words that the mass choir lifted over the sanctuary as loved ones walked down the center aisle into our patient's homegoing service that next day.
Me: “Couple more updates—so I spoke our social worker. We’ve got some ways to help.”
You: *staring at me*
Me: “Also the pharmacist worked the stuff out with your insulin pen. They’ll be right over to help with that. Oh! And I found the pill box.”
Me: "You okay?"
You: "Yeah. I’m good.”
Me: "Okay. I thought maybe something was wrong.”
You fixed your eyes on me and shook your head. Hard.
You: *sigh* "I'm just tripping, that’s all."
Me: *squinting* "Tripping off of what?"
3/ You: "I was just thinking. . like every time I see y'all . . .everybody be hustling to help me. Almost like y’all really, truly give a shit about whether I live or die."
I placed the pill container on the tray table and sat down.
1/ My patient died the other day. One often described as “cantankerous" and known for his legendary cuss-outs and kick-outs from his room.
And one who was sick.
"Cantankerous" by definition is:
A bad rap if you're a patient.
2/ On my first day meeting him he told me to go away. Let me know he didn’t give a damn about me “needing to take a look” or “just give a quick listen.”
I explained that I was the senior doctor and he sucked his teeth hard. Then sighed and quickly had a comeback.
3/ Him: “Well, how ‘bout you carry your 'senior doctor' self down to the cafeteria and talk to them 'bout my food!”
Me: “What’s wrong with your food?”
Him: *glaring* “What’s not?” He lifted the top on the plate and slammed it back down.