Sunday, 8 April 2007

A good news story

As you may well imagine, hospitals are not happy places. They are places where the usual stories are sad, unfortunate tales of despair. Stories of families being shattered by illness and death. Stories of our elderly who gave so much in their youth and now live alone, uncared for and unloved simply waiting to die. Stories of our children who have their futures taken away by unfortunate events.

Working in such an environment can be, quite frankly, really depressing and sometimes it feels like we hardly ever have good news to tell our patients. On the rare occasions that we do have some good news, we try to hold on to the feeling and treasure it because, by God, it makes the job more bearable.

Let me tell you the story of Mr Bennett.*

Mr Bennett came to hospital because he just felt tired all the time and because he was losing weight. Blood results were normal but the X-ray showed he had this ig shadow in his right lung. Mr Bennett had been smoking about 30 fags a day since he was about thirteen and I immediately thought that this mass could well be lung cancer. Ultimately, X-rays are just shadows so we needed to organise a few more tests to try and get a definitive diagnosis of what this shadow was.

I had to tell Mr Bennett what the X-ray showed, that we suspected he had lung cancer but we had to arrange some more tests to try and find out for sure. He took it surprisingly well, at least he didn’t immediately break down, but I spoke to him a day or so later and it was pretty obvious that he was devastated. Over the next week or so, Mr Bennett had various blood tests, a camera shoved into his lungs and a CT scan, all looking or more evidence of cancer.

We were wrong. It turns out that this shadow on his X-ray was not cancer, but a strange ball of fungus that was growing in his lung called an aspergilloma. We told him this news and the poor man broke down in tears, he was so relieved.

As I was walking away from the hospital that day I thought to myself, “this is the only good news I’ve told any of my patients all week. Moments like that make the job worthwhile.”

By the way, Mr Bennett continues to smoke 30 a day.

*Obviously, names have been changed.

1 comment:

luna said...

i think that so much hangs on the wording.
If you tell someone the word "cancer" that's all they remember,and they're sure they have it and are going to die soon.
If you say only the second half,"we need more tests",people don't panic and even if they turn out to have the big C,at least they get 2 days reprieve.

Funny thing the opposite happened with my registrar.I was adamant I had no cancer and wouldn't do any tests.She thought I had and she was horrified!