So the last time my darling Dad was hospitalized before his death we had a revolving door full of doctors in and out of his hospital room at the great St. Peter’s Hospital. He had a doctor for his heart condition, another for his breathing issues. There was someone for his circulation issues and another doctor whose function we never really understood. Each doctor told us a different story and, despite our repeated attempts to get clarity and clarification, their suggestions and advice seemed to contradict each other.
I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert in medical procedures or diagnoses or treatments but it seemed to me then likes it seems to me now that there should be some kind of attempt by doctors treating the same patient to communicate and coordinate their plan of care so the family can receive consistent information and make informed decisions. During that last week my mother and I were dizzy from the conflicting things we were being told. Tests were being prescribed (most of which we declined), promises were sort of being made, and we were given what turned out to be false hope that this was just another misstep and that he would be going home.
About 48 hours after my Dad got to the hospital one of his doctors asked to speak to my mother and me privately. He was honest and blunt with us when being blunt and honest was what we needed. He told us that there was nothing that could be done and that my father was not leaving the hospital. He suggested to us that the only thing we should focus on at that point was keeping my Dad comfortable and surrounded by people he loved and to not allow him to be tested or treated any longer.
Not only was it overwhelming to hear but it was freeing. We finally had a doctor tell us what we needed to hear as opposed to what we hoped we would hear. My Mom and I told my Dad what the doctor had said but, not surprisingly, in his heart of hearts he already knew. My Dad never spent another moment alone for the next 7 days until he died. There was always one of us with him and friends and family came to say goodbye. It was heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. And when my Dad died, he did so surrounded by love and without pain. What more can any of us ask?
So thank you to Dr. Patel who spared my Dad suffering and who was honest with my Mom and me when we needed that more than anything. He was and is our hero.