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On Being a Doctor |

The Family Connection

Alfred Muller, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Chevy Chase, MD


Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1994;121(4):301-302. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-121-4-199408150-00012
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With each passing year in practice, time becomes more precious. So much to do, so little time. In the course of the busy day it is frustrating to receive a call from a concerned family member. The patient's explanation has not been adequate, and the loved one seeks further clarification, or reassurance. But the request to review the situation again (usually with a different family member from one already designated as “spokesman”) never comes at a convenient time. You'd like to oblige—and do—but, oh, couldn't this time be better spent with the patient?

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I was there!
Posted on June 13, 2010
Raymond J. Stillwell
None
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

I was the NCO of the night shift when the young man came into surgery (It didn"t take long to become the senior individual with the rate of turnover then.) that night. The memory of that evening has stayed with me over the decades. His face, and that of his mother's, is embedded in my memory.

The weapon was a claymore that was pointed towards the landing zone. The wounds struck me as being perfectly symetrical up both legs, through the abdomen (hitting both kidneys), and up through the upper body. (I see his face and the surgical room as I write this.)

We were short of staff that night which was very common then. A Major and a number or Warrant Officers from his unit came to surgery that night. They wanted to see him but access to the surgical rooms was prohibited. They waited in the small sitting area that we had. I offered them the coffee and access to the limited suply of ice cream that we had (surgery was allocated a ration of ice cream at that time). They declined. They looked at me with a strange expression on their faces. It finally dawned on me that my scrubs were soaked in blood. It was a common experience for those in surgery but disconcerting for anyone not familiar with the reality of combat surgery.

If my memory serves me correctly, the young man was a Warrant officer and not a Corporal. That matters little now. His name is now engraved upon the "Wall." The story in surgery at that time when his mother showed up at the gate was that his brother had been killed in nam a year prior. I don't know if that was fact or fiction.

Thank you for the article.

Ray Stillwell SP5/91D20 91st Evac Hospital "Aid to the Wounded"

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

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