I was coming towards the last half hour of a frustrating and hectic day of work. A day after a` night on call is usually turbulent with me bereft of sleep and keen to run back home to catch some sleep.
The last scan I did was what I felt as a routine one. It read on the requistion sheet – chronic liver disease. Now there’s nothing unusual in that. I went about it my way documenting each and every relevant finding and once done dispatched the report to the patient’s bystander immediately.
While I was stretching out glad that the days work is over, I was told that the last patients wife would like to talk to me to discuss about the patient;s illness. It took me over ten seconds to respond to my staff whether to entertain it. Many a times I was lost as to where to draw the line when it comes to discussing the imaging with a patient especially because the colleague who is sending the patient to me would not want me to plant any ideas into the patient’s head.
But since I had a half hour left to run the day down, I agreed. When she met me, her question was simple, to the point, yet so so complicated. She asked, “ What’s his current status? “ I gave the typical radiologist response – “If you have some previous imaging documentation with you I could offer you an opinion on his current status.” She fumbled in her handbag for documents of his health care available with her. They were handwritten consultation notes from a physician with clinical and lab documentations, without any imaging. So I was in a loss on where to start.
No longer working in a teaching/academic environment, I felt this was a good opportunity to open up a lecture on the natural history of the disease. I went about it in such a manner so that I could attempt to simplify the language to the taste of a non medico, neither being too abrasive, nor too soft on the state of affairs her husband’s liver has found its way into.
But the more and more I kept explaining to her, or rather translating medical terminologies and the disease, more I realized how we are left to be mere spectators or rather succumb to being victims to the disease.
Offering hope to a patient does not really fall on the academic menu of a radiologist and neither does the profession demand such skills from the men who sit behind pixelated monitors appearing to be making foolhardy judgements about diseases that have a life and course of their own. When push comes to shove and you are free falling, one can only look skywards and hope there is something beyond life.