For the last few weeks I've been doing some job shadowing at a local clinic. On Monday I got to follow one of my neighbors who is also my family's general care provider and a good friend.
While shadowing I like to take a seat whenever possible so as to be at the same level as the everyone else in the room. I sit near the door with my legs crossed and hands folded in my lap. As the patient begins talking to their doctor I become invisible; silently intent. My body beings to lean close and I sit at the edge of the seat soaking it all in -- I have to force myself to relax coiled muscles and slide back in the chair during nearly every visit. It truly is thrilling. As I watch, a bubble of trust forms around the patient and their doctor. There's an ownership that is unlike anything I've ever seen. A place for everyone involved. It's like magic born from knowledge. And I can't seem to get enough of it -- every new case is fascinating and I love discussing procedures and prescriptions with the doctor afterward.
I want to know how to do that! I want to form little trust bubbles with good people and give them advice on how to feel better. I want to have the answers, or best guess as the case may be.
But, I digress.
One of the last patients on Monday was a mother who also brought her young daughter. The mother was very sweet and humbly described her symptoms to the best of her ability. She listened to what the good doctor had to say and kept an open mind. Occasionally she would glance over at me, as if to invite me into the special little bubble. I listened intently, all the while my mind was going crazy as I thought about what could be making her feel the way she described. As I leaned forward in my seat, a pair of eyes caught mine. The daughter was staring at me. I smiled at her and she shyly smiled back. I trained my eyes back at the mother and tried to pay attention but the little girl kept sneaking looks at me.
All of a sudden she states, "You look pretty," before shyly turning away again.
My mind took instant inventory of what I was wearing, how I had done my hair and face that morning. My brain calculated it all in a fraction of a moment and informed me that I looked decent that day. But it was too late. The compliment had sunk in. I chose to accept and believe. It was decided: I looked pretty!
It felt . . . good. Something clicked for me in that moment. Something that has long been broken was suddenly healed a little bit. It's been a while since I've even tried to believe such a compliment from anyone.
In fact, only one other person has accomplished something similar and I never had the chance to let him know what an impact it has had. Without him, this child's assessment and positive judgement of me would have rolled off my skin just as similar statements have my whole life. Instead, it sunk in and I can't stop smiling at her candid remark whenever it crosses my memory.
This little girl continued stealing my attention for the remainder of the short visit. She was shy and sweet. She liked my earrings. She thought I was nice. She stared right at me as the doctor examined her itchy rash and smiled the whole time.
I was sorry to see this mother and daughter leave the clinic. I wanted to chat and know everything about them. I wanted to have new best friends. But, I think I already do -- at the heartstrings level.
That's the real magic in medicine: the ability to connect to other souls via mutual respect and reverence for knowledge and the human body. A doctor has no power to help if he does not respect his patient enough to listen, empathize, and offer good advice. A patient has no power to be healed by a doctor if she does not speak honestly about symptoms and take his advice.
There is no power without choosing to believe.
And I do believe.