We had a slight disturbance at work yesterday that caught us all off guard, and I can't seem to stop thinking about it.
If you follow my blog, then you know about Dr. Saffari and what such a great guy and Doctor he is. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, please read this post). He works incredibly hard and cares for every person that walks through our front door. And it's not very often that he takes time for himself. After our PA up and left, Dr. Saffari was the only doctor that was available for consults in the hospital, and who could be paged for orders and questions etc. He never took a day off for those nine months. And to this day, he works non-stop to help his patients. But he did recently take a vacation to Italy; a much needed one, a couple of weeks ago.
Yesterday, we heard some horrible news that one of our long-time patients with ovarian cancer, died around 9am in Hospice. He'd been her doctor for years, and she'd been in decline for months. While I barely knew her, we were all saddened by this news. After lunch, our receptionist got a call from the patient's son. What he said shocked her so badly that she had to run to our RN for advice and to get it off her chest.
He had said something to the effect of:
"Because Dr. Saffari went on vacation, my mom is dead. So f*ck you."
And hung up.
Now I understand all too well how grief can consume you. I understand that he was angry at the world for his mother's death. But this... is just wrong. Dr. Saffari took care of her. He had never given up. She was even still on chemotherapy, I believe. But she was loosing her battle. There was nothing he could do.
But, how dare he take time for himself. How dare he have a wife and children that he normally never gets to see, and take a much needed respite from his taxing position.
Again, I want to point out that anger is one of the 5 stages of grief. It's not bad or unusual to be angry, even at things that you wouldn't normally blame. But there is a big difference between sitting with your anger - even venting it to friends and family, and actually calling up our receptionist and saying that.
Our RN told Dr. Saffari what he'd said. I don't know why he needed to know. He already feels guilty for taking any time for himself because he knows patients are in need of his help. As the day wore on, I knew the man's words had affected him deeply. He tried to hide it, but I could tell.
As most of you know, I've been though this myself. When Josh died, I went through every stage of grief. I was angry at myself because I believed that I caused his death by being negligent in his health. I also blamed the Urgent Care that I'd taken him to. He'd waited for over an hour to be seen. At this point, no one knew he'd had a heart attack, but nurses were manning the front desk. They watched him suffer in the waiting room. They saw his pale, pallid face. They should have known, I told myself. I was angry, sure. I will never go back to that particular Urgent Care ever again. At one point, I never wanted to go to any of them again. Negligent, incompetent people, I thought. But after he died, did I call them up and cuss them out? No. Did I scream at any of the nurses or doctors at TG for "letting him die"? No. In fact, the very next day when my parents took me back to get my car, I insisted on buying two cards: one for the ICU who took care of him in his last moments, and one reserved for this particular nurse that helped lighten the mood in the ER and had Josh smiling for the last time in his life.
I know that everyone handles grief differently. I know it can be difficult no matter what the circumstances. But I believe he could have, and should have, held his tongue. It's possible, I've done it. Dr. Saffari will reflect on his words, and it will be burned into his memory for all time, because you couldn't pause for one brief moment and not dial those numbers. He'll feel horrible about having any time to himself, because that's who he is.
My advice... think about what you say. Pause, take a deep breath, and remember that your words can be immortalized for all time and can change people's lives forever.