I want to talk a little bit today about something every doctor’s office will go through at some time…the loss of a good patient. And while this is very hard to write about at this time, there is a lesson for all to learn at the end of it.
Last week our practice lost two fine people, one who didn’t want to go and fought valiantly to live and the other, a long time patient and friend, who simply decided he didn’t want to stay around to see what God had in store for him.
Both of these deaths were extremely hard to take for all of us, but it was Dee’s (the second patient) passing that was especially hard on all of us, because we just didn’t see it coming.
Dee and I had known each other for over 20 years. I coached his son in Little League. Our kids went to school together. While we were friends back then, our relationship grew over the years as Dee faced a dangerous back surgery. He decided to give chiropractic a try before heading off down the medical road and came to see me, although rather reluctantly.
Long story short, chiropractic saved him and he became an advocate for us.
Dee was easily the most liked patient with our staff also. You see, Dee never met a stranger. He would “hold court” in the waiting room with anyone willing to talk business, politics or Georgia football. In other words, everyone loved Dee.
When I first got the call, it was simply impossible to believe. He had everything…a good family, bills paid, retired, grandkids, no worries. I racked my brain. What did I miss? How did I miss it? Were there any dots I could have connected? I went through all the emotions…sadness, anger (if he were alive, I’d want to beat the tar out of him!), confusion, frustration, etc. There simply weren’t any answers available.
Over 200 people attended the service last Saturday. As I said, he was very well liked and respected in the community.
Now for the lesson…Monday morning was busy. Dr. Tyler (my son) and I were seeing our patients, new ones were arriving and we were just “flat out busy”. Dee’s wife, Judy (also a good friend and patient) and her daughter were waiting in my consultation room to talk to me. I hadn’t had a chance to talk with them at the service because it was so crowded. But they wanted to talk to me, so they drove over to the office.
I went in and did my best to console them. We cried and talked and cried some more. They asked me for an adjustment (they innately knew they needed one) and also for the name of a professional to talk to as they also had no dots to connect (there was no note or anything for them to hang on to). I adjusted them and gave them the phone number of a good friend who excelled in bereavement counselling.
After our visit, I knew exactly what I had to do. Patients were waiting. They had their own issues and wanted care. I had to mentally “close the door” to this visit and start over. I had to regroup, leave the situation behind, and carry on.
In our office we call it “present time consciousness” or PTC. It’s simply being totally in the moment with whoever you’re with. It’s living in “room tight compartments” if you go from room to room. It’s being “one with the bone” as Dr. Sigafoose used to say. Is it easy to do? Absolutely not! Is it necessary? Absolutely!
The bottom line is that you simply cannot give 100% of yourself to one person while thinking about another. It’s not right and it’s not fair to them. Would you want that if you were the patient?
The day continued like this. Both Dr. Tyler and I rode an emotional roller coaster with patients and some very unique situations throughout the day.
Less than 1 hour later, a patient who had been in severe pain due to a surgery gone wrong came in. She had experienced a miracle with chiropractic and wanted to thank us for our help. She had created a wood burned plaque for us and was so excited to give it to us, she could hardly contain herself. If my heart had not been with her, she would have felt it. Just look at the smile on her face! If I hadn’t been there with her, physically, mentally and spiritually, it would have crushed her.
We had a Drs. Report scheduled that evening. Dr. Tyler was exhausted by that time and could have easily postponed it. But he didn’t. He’s been called to give the message and he gave it. He spoke from his heart and at the end of the talk the patients actually applauded him! He could have sat home and felt sorry for people. But people needed him so he was there for them. That’s when you know you’ve been called.
My point here is simple…you must stay in PTC ALL the time. You’ve got to ride the wave with patients all day long. Be with them, up when they’re up, pulling them up when they’re down. Love them, show them you care, then close the door and move to your next “Universe”.
And just as Dee left us without warning, we never know who will be next.
So maybe now is a good time for you and your staff to spend this next week showing each of your patients a little extra love and gratitude for allowing us into their lives.
Doctor, you never know whose life you can change by a smile, a few kind words, or a hug. The neat thing is that in chiropractic offices, we’re allowed to do that. And that’s pretty special.
You’re not just a doctor or a CA. You’re a kind, caring person who is just trying to help another person get through this crazy world. That’s what will make you stand out. That’s what people will remember you for!
In the words of BJ Palmer, “We never know how far reaching something we may think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow. There is nothing better than giving with your heart. It’s the most rewarding experience you’ll have. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just heartfelt.