One, two, three…
The counting of compressions permeated the air as we anxiously stood by hoping to see any sign of life. We were trying to save Adam, a young Israeli-Arab who was on our inpatient service due to complications after his hemicraniotomy. He was hospitalized for nearly four months and his vital signs never stabilized, despite our rigorous and numerous treatments.
10, 11, 12…
As an American studying at an Israeli medical school, I noticed how politics played no role in the hospital. No one cared if you (or the patient) was Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim or Jewish. If you were sick, you were taken care of. Period. Adam was treated in the same manner as all of our patients, with the same care, attitude and enthusiasm as when he first arrived.
20, 21, 22…
We always hope to see our patients recover, especially when they are so young. Adam’s mother visited him daily and held out hope that her son would return to his pre-accident condition. She was at his bedside everyday, praying. She even brought an imam to the hospital to pray for Adam. However, deep down everyone knew that he would most likely never leave the hospital.
Unfortunately, we were not able to save Adam. As I walked through the corridors of the department after his death, I felt sadness exuding from the walls. It seemed as if the walls were crying. We had lost a person who had become part of our team, part of our lives. When I arrived to the hospital each morning, I became accustomed to seeing Adam in his bed. While I never conversed with Adam due to his coma, I felt a strong connection to him simply because we thought about him and tried to help him every day. This was a relationship that was strictly one-way. In fact, it seemed as though what Adam couldn’t do is what made us close.
The Person, not the Place
Studying medicine in Israel affords me the opportunity to learn about new cultures and the various religions that call it home. When it comes to saving a life or treating the simplest illness, I learned that no one checks which or what God the patient directs prayers to. When one walks through the hallowed doors of a hospital one is entering a totally transformed and politically free zone. Everyone is an equal. This was clearly evident in Adam’s hospital course. Regardless of the physician in charge of his care, the quality of treatment was always maintained at the highest level possible. Even as the days turned into months, the various teams treating him did not slip.
As physicians, we encounter patients of various ethnic backgrounds and religions. Many times we will make a judgment based on the manner in which they dress or speak. The truth is, this tendency is often second nature to us. We have to train ourselves to refrain from doing so. By having preconceived notions we can unknowingly affect the patient-physician relationship and perhaps alter our actions due to lack of this knowledge. We know that our mission is to care for our patients. We can’t forget to care about our patients, too.
Author’s note: The patient’s name was changed to protect his privacy.