Just two words
“Duktora, ako na po.” He was a bagger who was offering to help unload my groceries at the counter. Wondering how he knew I was a doctor, I forgot that I was still wearing my white coat. Feeling a little conspicuous for being singled out, coupled with the fact that there were more people needing his assistance, I politely declined. He proceeded to pack the supplies, handed these over like precious gifts, bowed and said, “thank you po, duktora!“
As I was walking away, I could not help but feel grateful for being the recipient of those two words and didn’t question why. I simply just savored the moment. It was reminiscent of another time during the height of the pandemic when a stranger on a bike seeing the M.D. emblem on my car shouted out the same two words, and waved like there was no tomorrow as if I did him a personal favor. These experiences reaffirm that everything that is happening JUST MAKES SENSE.
The casualties of any disease involve not only the patient but the family as well. Have you ever wondered if we, as your health care professionals, were and are co-casualties? On occasions when you made us captain of the ship, from the nurses to the attendants, to the clerks who were all part of the team, we struggled with you. Struggled to be stoic not because we were lacking in compassion, but because we needed to keep it together as your world was falling apart. As my brother who is also a doctor would always say, when you are given a patient, think about this: he or she is someone’s daughter or son, a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, a grandchild, a niece or nephew, an aunt or uncle, someone’s best friend or someone’s go-to person.
At times having such a responsibility can be all-consuming. We sleep with it, bathe in it, wake up at odd hours plagued with thoughts on whether we have done enough. We, like you, link our fingers tightly together praying for divine guidance to do what is best and what is humanly possible.
If we ever succeed, it is a reason to rejoice, but when we don’t, a part of us always gets taken away. What is left are choices and chances. A choice to continue being better at what we do, a chance to improve, a choice to let go of things we cannot take control of, a chance to forgive human frailties, and always, an opportunity to constantly learn a lesson on humility.
Recently, I had a soulful talk with a colleague and a good friend. We were in agreement that patients always feel dependent on us, but in reality, we are the ones dependent on them. Patients give us a sense of purpose, a reason to just keep going, a reason to be grateful for being privileged to be a part of your lives even fleetingly, a reason to believe that we are in the right place.
Words may be just that, letters pieced together to convey a message that may or may not mean anything to you but is valuable to another. What may easily be dismissed or taken for granted may be the very thing that another person holds dear. The bagger and the biker knew mine.
If you were once a patient, please allow me to reciprocate with the same two words.
Thank you. Just two words.
You cannot begin to imagine how you have given us so much more than what we have given you.
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