Waterworks

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My heart just breaks when people cry. And I have never had so many teary patients as I have had in Dermatology.

One lady was eighty years old, and drove herself to the hospital. What a lovely person! So lucid, so well-groomed, so independent. And she lives alone.

She had seborrhoeic scalp eczema – basically eczema in the regions of the body that produce sebum, like the scalp, nasolabial folds, groin and axillae. It’s itchy and embarrassing, producing a yellowish scaly plaque, but it’s not dangerous.

This lady had some secondary pustular infection, however, which made it more painful and more concerning. She also has a history of non-melanocytic skin cancer, so one has to check if it could be an abnormal malignant lesion.

The waterworks came when she told us about her scheduled cataract surgery later the week. She was afraid that they would see the lesion and refuse to touch her. She had been waiting for this surgery for over a year. She lives alone. She struggles to see. Then she starts crying, “It’s been too long, Doctor. I can’t go on not seeing.”

I just wanted to give her a big hug, but holding her hand till she stopped crying had to do.

She told us about her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She teased with us, and wished us well on the rest of our medical education.

The consultant promised her that her surgery would be able to take place. It was scheduled for today. I do hope that by now, she is in the recovery room. I cannot bear to think of her being told she would have to wait some more, with nobody to understand her tears.

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