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MEMORABLE PATIENT ENCOUNTER

One last family meal

One of my favorite patient stories came from “Ms. R,” a patient at my previous clinic, the Retina Institute of Indiana, in Fort Wayne.

Ms. R first came to that clinic about three-and-a-half years ago. She was in her late 90s and confined to a wheelchair; she was only about 5 feet tall and very fragile, so staff members had to lift her up out of her chair and seat her into the examination equipment. Despite Ms. R’s frailty, she was very sharp and had a mellow way of speaking that was always easy to understand.

What I remember most, though, was her strong relationship with her children. Her two adult daughters, both in their 70s, lived close to her. Since the clinic was about an hour away from their homes, they almost always accompanied their mother, followed by a family dinner in Fort Wayne. One of their favorite restaurants to visit was Red Lobster. Her son, who lived in California and was also in his 70s, would frequently visit as well and join the rest of his family during their clinic and dinner trips.

THE BOND OF FAMILY

The whole family was very nice and well-educated, and I enjoyed seeing them. Their bond was very strong, and I often saw them in the clinic around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day.

My visits with Ms. R usually took about an hour, during which her family would wait for her in the lobby. She was monocular, and I used to give her intravitreal injections monthly in her only seeing eye so she could continue to read. Every time she came to the clinic, she would tell me, “You are the best doctor I have ever had.” I would jokingly reply, “I am sure you say this to other doctors too,” to which she would laugh.

I saw Ms. R for about a year-and-a-half, until her death. Her family sent me a very nice card, sharing their loss with me and thanking me for caring for her. I still miss her today — she never complained, and the relationship we developed was so friendly that it was almost familial.

“I WILL SEE HIM IN HEAVEN”

Shortly after her death, though, one of her daughters gave me a gift card to Red Lobster. Ms. R’s daughter told me that her mother had instructed her to “give this Dr. Khan so he can also enjoy a meal at Red Lobster. And tell him I will see him in Heaven.” It brought tears to my eyes to know that, on her deathbed, she had thought of me.

I took my wife and 2-year- old son and shared in this tradition that Ms. R had loved with her family. OM

Adeel Khan, MD, MPH, specializes in vitreoretinal diseases and surgery. He currently practices at DaVita Medical Group’s department of ophthalmology in Albuquerque, N.M.