Wanted: Shoulder To Lean On

Human. Quiet. Patience is an advantage. Non-judgmental. Willing to render overtime. Willing to be on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No age limit. No gender discrimination. Salary grade is eternal in amount. Guaranteed slot in heaven.


Today I realized that it is indeed an occupation to be a lender– not that of money but a lender of time and self, just being there, just being physically present, just BEING in the moment for each other. Virtuous in nature, noble if i may say.


Doctors deal with life and death in the flesh every single day of our lives. Our own personal issues and sensitivities are set aside when we deal with patients and we are perfectly fine with it. I guess Someone designed us, or more aptly, blessed us with the gift of detachment. Otherwise we will not last in the first place because every single day is a chance for us to “breakdown” emotionally. Our patients remind us of our own family, it reminds us constantly to cherish their physical presence without fail because anytime they can be taken away and it will be too late to hear them re-acknowledge through their human voice that they love us too. But there is something about the constant stream of patients, not necessarily ours, that we encounter frequently that makes us feel unconsciously that we have already developed our very own resistance level towards pain and sadness…this day, however, was my exception. The irony of it all was that the shoulder I “borrowed” for comfort was my patient’s. Miraculous healing. Humbling. No words can express how much that moment made me just FEEL. It made me realize that there is indeed a reason behind the statement of “Everybody needs a shoulder to lean on“. My patient was intubated, so there was no way that I can hug her, but some force drew me into giving in to my emotions of feeling sad over her expected loss compounded by the fact that I found myself being reminded that I had my own fair share of pain as well. Something I thought I have conquered, but again, life moves in more ways than we could ever imagine to make us realize the opposite of what we stubbornly insist upon. 


Emotional experiences for us involves being close one instant then distant the next. Strange. And to some it may seem to be cold and aloof. Maintaining a distance is necessary for us to be able to carry on our jobs well. But deep inside that emotional “boundary” is what makes us, as individuals, last and most importantly learn that it is true indeed that we are all bound to go back to the roots of what truly makes us who we are and what we truly long for that no amount of monetary compensation can replace, and that is love, care, respect and understanding. I am warm towards my patients because I love them dearly even if some exhibit disrespect, I just work on the precept that they are in much more need for comfort. Breath in. Breath out. End of frustration. Consults move forward. Taking care of them is forever an honor and a treasure I keep in my heart.


Today was an exception simply because I was in denial of a fact I knew– and that was my dear patient’s death. Vehicular accident. Mother of four. Literally started with me in my journey as a practicing physician in my 14 years of medical practice. Her death was something I did not want to declare and see. But there are just things that we already know that will threaten to tear us up inside, in unexpected ways, and the pain is more than swallowing shattered glass. Sometimes things just happen and the barriers you thought were sturdy enough not to break down just falls in an instant. Mine did.. tonight. And that is when it gets tough. These are just the nights when you want to just run to someone and just hug them a bit tighter and longer. People think of you as a moving boom box because the sounds from your car has its bass level raised to the maximum. 


But things have their threshold limit also when you reach rock bottom. The statements of “In every dark cloud there is a silver lining” and “It does not stay that way forever” were not cliches after all. My “does not stay that way forever” came in the form of simple feel-good moments of friends asking you about your day. That’s when the barrier comes up again. Made me smile and made me feel better. Made me feel just fine. Very simple but very significant. Thanks for asking.


The best things in life are free. Every second of our lives matter. Make the most out of it.


My turn to ask you… How was your day? Hope you feel better.



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