The first patient we saw in the community was an elderly gentleman (let’s call him Mr. X) who suffered from a plethora of health conditions that had sadly robbed him of his livelihood. The patient was initially diagnosed with leg ulcers, which eventually progressed to a stage whereby the patient was in constant agonising pain and walking had become unbearable. Coupled with his pre-existing arthritis, this led to a loss of Mr. X’s mobility and previously active lifestyle. Understandably, the past few years have been extremely distressing to Mr. X and those close to him, and this was made clear to us when hearing of the tribulations his family have been through since the diagnosis.
Ashamed of his weight gain, Mr. X, who was previously a popular individual amongst his friends, had lost the ability to keep up with his social activities and as a result became isolated in the community. In addition to this, the loss of his job resulted in Mr. X and his wife losing their home and much of their retirement savings, contributing to his depression.
One particularly poignant remark Mr. X made was, “People don’t understand just how difficult it is just to live”. This had to be the most important learning point for me from my community visits so far – it was the first time I was truly able to appreciate the cascade of repercussions one health condition can have on an individual’s life.
To be welcomed into patient’s homes and delve into their personal and private lives is an immense honour, and has only increased my motivation to persist through this year. As medical students, we are often so busy trying to determine direct cause and effect, easily forgetting the innumerable indirect consequences of ill health.
Mr. X showed me that, as future doctors, we must aspire to facilitate living, rather than simply facilitating existence.
So I’ll end on this:
“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” – Hippocrates (couldn’t have put it better myself!)
Until next time,