Graduates selected Dr. Wible to deliver final inspiring words before becoming physicians. View speech, download MP3, or read full transcript below: (the audio podcast is BEST because you can hear all the laughter & audience reaction) . . .
In less than 30 minutes you will all finally be physicians! (cheering) And this summer you’ll be set loose on your very own patients. (laughter) How exciting is that? Maybe a little nerve-racking.
During your career (depending on specialty and work ethic) you may care for more than 100,000 patients—only a few will live in your heart forever. You will join them on a sacred journey for two. Trust them. They will guide you from nervous new doctor and teach you how to be a healer.
As a new intern, I was assigned to Emily. She had idiopathic bronchiectasis (a fatal lung disease) and refused to take her meds so the transplant team signed off on her case. They abandoned us. We were both 25. Sobbing uncontrollably with her oximiter alarm shrilling, she looked to me for help. I didn’t know how to help her die. So I snuck my dog, “Happy,” into her room for midnight excursions. With her portable oxygen tank rolling behind us, we’d hold hands and disappear across the hospital parking lot into a blanket of grass and gaze at the stars where she’d share her grief of never giving birth or finding her soul mate. Emily and I became soul sisters on an adventure of a lifetime. . . until the day, in her bedroom sitting beside her body wrapped in a Mickey Mouse blanket, I signed her over to the morgue.
Emily has never left my side.
Patients like Emily will hold your hand and lead you to places where there is no algorithm, no attending, where you have no earthly idea what you’re doing. All you’ve got is each other.
After Emily, Harold stumbled awkwardly into my heart. A loner who distrusted technology (and doctors), he lived in the woods caretaking a wildlife sanctuary with no electricity. No phone or car. But he had great health insurance (through his employer). His ex-girlfriend recommended me. So he’d hitchhike to my office—3 hours each way. One day he came in, his back covered in nodules. I excised one, sewed him up, gave him a kiss on the forehead, a slip for a chest X-ray, and an appointment to return next week. It was metastatic lung cancer. He chose chemo, moved to the city, got a cell phone, and quickly spiraled to his death. I got him back to his cabin. He died the next day. His ashes now food for the forest he so loved—where I visit him each fall.
I think Emily kind of helped me with Harold. You’re never really alone. Some patients follow you forever.