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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Teaching & Learning

Foothill's Medical Centre is a "teaching hospital". Most hospitals are to an extent because all doctors, nurses, technicians etc learn as they go and experience new patient situations. However Foothills is the largest medical centre in southern Alberta with many programs the others in the area don't have., It is affiliated with the University of Calgary medical school and is a place where many medical professionals from other schools come to learn. I was "warned" of this a few times during the kidney donor screening and that I may, at times, be subject to things like more questions, slightly longer exams or "extra" people being in the room for tests. It was always fine with me although sometimes it can make you feel a bit like a lab rat.

I was required to go for an ultrasound the day after I went to the ER for the "Pain in Ma Belly". Apparently Ultrasounds are hard to get on weekends so unless it's a life or death situation, they get patients to come back during regular hours. My appointment was at 7:45AM and even at 7:15 when I arrived there were several people waiting. A nurse soon came and took a group of 4 or 5 of us down to the change room area where she instraucted each of us to put gowns on in different ways, depending on what we were having done. You then were to sit in your booth until called.  Everyone was called within about five minutes except for one older man and I, because we were having "more complicated" ultrasounds done.

I felt weird sitting in the curtained booth, essentially in the dark, so I tentatively opened the curtain a little and peered out. The older man was pacing nervously back and forward-he wasn't keen on staying in his booth either. He was shirtless and kept massaging his right arm which had a large scar near the shoulder. He saw me and said hello. He pointed to his arm and told me that it was sore and numb at the same time and that it was the oddest feeling. I nodded, not really sure what to say.  I think he just wanted to talk because he was nervous. SO I let him. I learned about his wife, how they had been together through over 40 years together good and bad. I learned he thought he was the luckiest man in the world because of this. I asked him if he had hurt his arm (hence the massaging and impending ultrasound). He told me he had had cancer throughout his lymph nodes on that side but that they were pretty sure they had got it all. He said with some chemo and radiation they expected him to live another 10-15 years. I guess my face had a "that's it?" look on it so he responded with "that is much better than the alternative and I'll gladly take it". He had so much optimism, so much hope. I was reminded again about time and how when you are told yours might have a sooner than expected end date, you'll do whatever you can to prolong things.

He asked me what was wrong with me (I think he may have phrased it exactly that way lol). I suddenly didn't have it in me to give a vague reason so I told him: I donated a kidney, I caught a cold, the cold made me cough, and now I'm worried I hurt the internal stitches. He asked "who did you donate your kidney to?"  "A stranger. I don't know who but I've heard they are doing well". No blinking from him. He just said "I think that's the nicest thing I've heard anyone do. You made someone really happy".

I smiled and before we could say anything else, a technician came and got me. I wished the gentleman, who was still massaging his arm, well. He nodded.

The technician was a student so she needed to have a guide in the room. She was very thorough (and also asked who got my kidney....) and a perfectionist. She mostly spoke to her instructor, other than when she needed to tell me to breath or not breath. But, at the end, she pointedly stopped to thank me for my patience-she had taken a little longer than normal. She said she had never seen someone missing a kidney, this soon after surgery and it was an extraordinary learning experience for her. She seemed absolutely thrilled and excited.

It's funny how that day at the "teaching hospital" I got to learn a few things too. I learned from that other patient that love and optimism can see you through a lot. I learned that you can be thankful for something like chemo and radiation and surgery that leaves your arm limp and numb if it gives you a chance at another 10 years with your wife. I learned that I could make a student's day just by being short a kidney.

Who knew.

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