Olsen, Nancy

Alone.   We all hate that word whether we are physicians or patients. 

Fortunately, I was raised a Christian. 

Later, happenstance would have it that I interned at my first choice, a Catholic Hospital, the Edmonton General Hospital, which was founded by the Grey Nuns.  The Nuns and Father John were there to comfort not just the patients but the staff.  I remember crying one night over a family illness and a break-up.  I felt such grief that I could not stop my tears falling down on the order sheet I was writing in ICU.  The Sisters helped me get through this and even just their presence gave me confidence and strength day to day.  I knew I was not alone. 

I briefly felt alone again about ten years later.  It was late in the day on December 23rd and I had a critically ill and particularly special patient whom I knew had renal failure secondary to Multiple Myeloma.  I heard the familiar telephone message we often hear at holiday times…” Our office is closed…please contact your family doctor or go to the nearest emergency.”  I did not want to just “dump her in emergency”.  She deserved a more personal solution.  For a moment, I felt alone.  Then, my brain switched from despair to optimism.  I would pray for the perfect solution.  Suddenly, a geriatrician’s name came to me as if God had inserted his name into my head.  I was able to reach him (this alone a mini-miracle) and he admitted her and saved her life. 

I could list many other such situations over the course of my 30 years as a family physician.  Presently I have God to thank for leading me to a job share with Dr. Lois Stewart in Saskatoon.  We truly collaborate and neither of us feels alone.    

God was also looking after me when I got a reference to Dr. Mimi Divinsky as my personal physician in Toronto in the early 1980’s.  Amongst other health issues, I had a stressful situation and she counselled me and even gave me advice over the telephone.  I did not feel alone. 

Sometimes we forget as family doctors that “being there” is very important to our patients; even when we have dying patients and cannot do much to impact the sometimes horrible outcome for our patients and their families.  When we receive cards or flowers for our work particularly in palliative cases, we are often surprised.  We truly think we really do not do any thing of major merit.  We in essence, undervalue ourselves.  That is because we are humble.  Often the major things we do are coming through a higher power and we don not feel that we can take full credit. 

Fortunately, I, as a family doctor, do not feel alone.

I feel privileged to have known Dr. Divinsky and also honoured to have been her patient.  It is only now, about 25 years later, that I realize her legacy.  I am writing this narrative in her honour.

Theme: Patients | Patients
Theme: Physicians | Médecins
Theme: Relationships | Relations 

Stories in Family Medicine | Récits en médecine familiale [Internet] Mississauga ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada. 2008 --.





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