We Wait

The patient was singularly uninterested in self-care, refusing physical therapy, medications and most interventions. They had been hospitalized for months for a life-threatening condition and subsequent complications. When I gave report to the accepting doctor at the rehab facility I pointed out the patient’s lack of interest in participating….in anything…., and opined that any functional recovery would be unlikely given the lack of effort.

Physicians wait. We wait for test results to guide therapeutic choices. We wait for responses to those choices. We wait for patients to participate in their own care. And sometimes we wait while patients who are, to be kind, slugs….just lay there and wait for hospital staff to move/lift/medicate/clean/feed them. Sometimes we wait for the end of life.

As 2020 ends, we see that the world, too, has been waiting. Waiting for economic recovery. Waiting for social and racial justice. Waiting for easing of restrictions. Waiting for a vaccine.

And in Advent…..we wait. We wait for the coming Messiah. We wait for redemption. We wait for grace.

Today I found in my work “cubbyhole” a letter. The name on the return address did not ring a bell and I had to look in the computer to remind me of the case. I opened and read the letter…..and cried into my coffee. It was from the uninterested patient, and was one of the most gracious and appreciative notes I have received in nearly thirty years of “doctoring,” thanking me for “a few more years on this earth to play with my dogs and go fishing.”

What a fitting Advent gift: a happy patient outcome. After a long wait, a happy doctoring resolution. Grace unexpected.

My prayer is that 2020 will end with unexpected happy outcomes for all those things for which we wait….

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