I said good-bye to JG today. I have been his doctor for over 15 years. In that time he has had prostate cancer, bladder cancer, multiple heart attacks, diabetes, acid reflux, joint pain and multiple episodes of heart failure. He never complained about his health, although we talked a lot about his wife's conditions. She died a little over a year ago from lung cancer. She was much younger than he, and it hit him hard.
I am not sure if doctors are supposed to have favorite patients, but he is one of mine.
He loves golf, and loves talking about it. Several years ago I went alone to a local course to play and ran into him. We ended up playing 18 holes together. I learned a lot about him, his values, and his “expansive” vocabulary. Ever since then he repeatedly talked about how far I could hit the ball, graciously overlooking the fact that he beat me handily!
He has old school values. Once he quietly told me about a time many years ago when the daughter of a close friend physically was mistreated by a man. He and a few other friends went and found the young man and proceeded to educate him about his behavior in a manner that would have landed them in jail today. It was how it was done back then, how friends looked out for each other. He was fiercely loyal like that.
I visited him at home today to talk about his health and living circumstances. Life has caught up with him to the point where he can no longer live alone. He will be moving in with family out of state. We spoke for several minutes and then I got up to leave. It takes significant effort for him to stand, but he did, and gave me a long hug and told me he loved me. As I left, he followed me outside to watch me go, leaning against his car as I drove away.
I will not forget him and believe that the image of him watching me leave will linger for some time. I am so grateful for the trust he placed in me, for the love, affection and friendship we shared over the years. I am again reminded of the truth that medicine is first and foremost about developing healing relationships and of how much I would be missing if my job became about medications, conditions and diseases instead of people.
Good-bye JG. Here's praying we will see one another again.