My friend was in an accident. It is not my story to tell and he would not appreciate me doing so, but it set me thinking.
As medical students of the 21st century, we are drilled in several things that were not always considered as important. These are things like the interdisciplinary approaches and holistic histories.
We are taught that it is not only about the biophysical history – we should also be interested in the patient’s economic, social and relational welfare.
The latest buzz word in our course is PREVENTION. Consultations are to be used for more than merely healing; we should also take preventative measures.
Find out if the patient lives in a house or a shack. Do they use electricity or gas? If they use gas, teach them about safe gas usage. Does the patient have access to clean running water? If not, find out how they clean their water and teach Mother what to do if her child develops diarrhoea. Does the patient smoke or drink? Advise about tapering down or quitting.
One of our lecturers told us that a lot of people who study medicine do it because they have a “complex” about “saving the world.” [that’s true]
Yet you can do whatever you want, remember to give advice on anything and still lose a regular patient to fate.
Some drunk driver can still come crashing down the wrong lane and obliterate everyone in its way. A bullet can still find its way into an innocent’s chest. Somebody with absolutely no risk factors can still be diagnosed with small cell lung carcinoma.
In the end, health care practitioners can do whatever they want, and a patient can be as compliant as elastic bands (sorry, couldn’t find a proper figure of speech)… and things can still end in disaster.
My friend is alright, save for a few small injuries. He was extremely lucky and so is everybody who cares for him. But it could have been different and it is every day, for some people.
And for that small truth, I am angered and immensely saddened.