Stories from the Stethoscope: June 2020

Read the June 2020 edition of Dr. Powell’s monthly column: Stories from the Stethoscope.

We are not supposed to have favorite patients, but Tommy was one of mine.  He lived to be 85 years old.  He was wheelchair bound from Cerebral Palsy with severe aspiration.  Although his speech was limited you can tell his heart was filled with love.  He loved to sing.  When I finished my visits with him, he would sing “You are my sunshine.”  No matter the mood he made me smile.  Tommy also knew his body better than anyone else.  He became somewhat of a legend.  He would frequently go the Emergency Department.  The ED physician would call me and report all the abnormal values they discovered.  Once they finished, I would ask them.  “Did he sing to you?”  The first few times the staff thought I was crazy.  “Go back and ask Tommy to sing to you.  I’ll wait on the line.  Let me know what he does.”  Many times, the provider would return and say he sang “You are my sunshine.”  I would say ok.  He can go home.  If he didn’t sing, we admitted him.  Tommy taught me the value of looking for all the signs available to me.  When chest x-rays and labs are always abnormal how do you find the true abnormality to provide the appropriate level of care?  We spend countless hours listening to patients speak, but how often do we really listen? Subjective information is as powerful as objective information. I still struggle with the difficult time restraints related to patient care.  I try to do my best to not miss out on the opportunity to hear my patient’s song. 

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