longitudinal experience to appreciate the patient’s perspective
For the first 18 months of medical school, each student is paired up with another student and a chronically ill patient. With the patient’s permission, the students meet him/her for various physician/therapeutic appointments and conduct fairly relaxed interviews in order to gain a better understanding of of the day-to-day while managing a lifelong and, at times, terminal condition.
Jared and I met with our LEAPP patient for the first time today. In order to maintain patient confidentiality, I must be vague. She is a few years younger than I am. She was diagnosed when she was 18 months old and her illness has been progressing since then, although there have been ups and downs. Her treatments are daily and time-consuming, yet she has managed to maintain an incredibly “normal” life, going to college, playing a varsity college sport, starting a family. She considers herself fortunate, and she was incredibly generous with her time and energy today, encouraging us to ask her any and all questions, allowing us to sit-in throughout her visit, which included some very personal questions. We will see her again in a month.
I don’t think of myself as someone who typically takes things for granted…at least, I feel a great deal of appreciation for what I have and what I can do. But I still whine about my health, lack of sleep, workload, and temporary separation from loved ones. Today was certainly not my first wake-up call, but I think it’s an indication that I need them frequently. But, more importantly, my meeting with this woman was simply a privilege, a first-hand observation of courage and humility, and I look forward to many more, with this patient and others.