I believe I will remember this patient for the rest of my life. I believe that I am doing the right thing, even if I'm breaking the rules.
Today I called the outpatient clinic and scheduled an appointment and interpreter for the French-speaking patient I mentioned in the last post. Then I called the house, without response. After work I drove out to the address listed in the patient's file. It was in the poorest area on the outskirts of a small but diverse university town. The apartment complex was crowded in next to the freeway, and almost every apartment had plywood for windows, except for the patient's. The apartment was being rented by his granddaughter, with whom he is staying, as well as her husband (I assume) and four small children.
I was greeted at the door by a shy but friendly five-year-old and an 18-month-old (by my estimate) wearing a dirty shirt and a diaper. She put her arms up and clamored to be picked up, so I did. The granddaughter, her husband (or who I assume to be her husband), and the patient all came out and hugged me, kissed me, shook my hand, and hugged me some more. I was offered a seat on the couch where the small toddler sat contentedly on my lap and drooled away. I made small talk in my very limited French, and in English with the little girl who told me her name and that she went to kindergarten. There was a basinet set up in the livingroom, where the seven-week-old baby sleeps during the day. The little girl brought me a bottled water.
The patient appeared healthy and well, much to my relief. He told me via the grandson-in-law, the only English speaker in the house, besides the kindergartner. His blood sugars had remained in the mid to upper 200s. A look of worry passed over the young man's face when I said that the patient had an appointment tomorrow afternoon. I then asked, quickly "can I pick him up at 12:30?" He responded with a huge smile and translated for the patient. After a few more minutes, I told them I had to go, but would be back the next day. "Demain!" I said in French, reaching to shake the patient's hand. "Demain!" He exclaimed, and gave me a big hug and a very French pecks on each cheek.
This family is the essence of goodness, I feel. And I wonder what took me so long to realize that this is my calling. These people live in our backyards, people with no one to look after them. People who are sent home from hospitals as lost causes. People who open their doors with complete trust, hoping against hope that in this hard country where everyone lives behind locked doors, and no one speaks to their own neighbors, that a good person will show up and do the right thing.
It's not just me, either. Over the past few days, I found nurses on my own floor who told me stories of dropping by an elderly patient's house a few days after her discharge, to check her wounds. Nurses who invited patients living nearby to come to their apartment to learn how to use their glucometer. I felt extremely proud of them. Going out on a limb, risking your own neck, sweeping aside rules set up by big business and beaurocracy in the name of good, that gives me hope. Our humanity gives me hope.