A Doctor Who Did
If I am looking for them, I can usually identify the selfless, loving, or chivalrous small acts of kindness that people do every day.
One could spend an eternity waiting for the opportunity of a lifetime when it is the little details that make a lifetime of good stories. Recently, however, I was not looking. I was waylaid by a tale of compassion.
My wife had played oboe with the Mosaic Choir and Orchestra for a couple years. A few weeks before one of her scheduled concerts, she had talked to me about her director, Allen, so when I showed up to the concert that night, I knew about his condition.
I knew that Allen had a brain tumor removed recently. I knew that he was on his second round of immunotherapy. What I didn’t know — what neither of us knew — was how dedicated his doctor had been until that night at the performance.
Having fallen prey to drowsiness enhanced by peaceful harmonies twice already, I was diplomatically roused by a brief intermission. The pastor of the church in which the concert was being held addressed the audience as the singers and musicians rested their breaths and fingers. The director was at his side.
The pastor told us how he had confronted Allen three months earlier with concerns that he was not being himself. He asked if he needed to take some time off. Allen admitted that he had noticed this himself. He said he would think about it. Within two weeks he called “a dear friend” and told him: “I need you to be my doctor now.”
On his bio, Dr. Steven Grant writes: “I aim to take time with my patients. The correct diagnosis comes after careful listening, artful examination and comprehensive consideration of the unique aspects of each patient’s life. But Medicine is much more than diagnosis! Everyone has a story to tell and it’s my privilege and responsibility to really listen.”
These were not mere words.
Steven Grant, DO, saw Allen on a Friday. His brain tumor was diagnosed and removed by the following Tuesday. Now here he was, standing in front of us, directing a choir.
Allen told the audience that he wanted to honor Dr. Grant that evening. He stated that “his” doctor had canceled all of his Monday appointments when he saw his MRI so that he could personally go with him to UW Medicine on Monday.
I retreated to my own thoughts. I did not know what to make of this.
One instinctive thought was that this was absurd! What about his other patients? What about their issues? One does not personally walk into the hospital with every patient! Was Dr. Grant not being a little radical? Was he playing favorites? But then I thought of myself in Allen’s shoes.
Wouldn’t I want a doctor who would drop everything for me? In fact, wouldn’t the patients who had their appointments canceled love the doctor who canceled their appointments so much more if they knew he might do the same for them in an emergency? Maybe the people who are willing to look a little irrational for the good of others are the most fit for being doctors.
What does that say of me? Will I be a doctor like him some day? Am I willing to be labeled irrational?
As my mind spun, Allen announced that Steven Grant was in the room. To honor him, Allen confessed he had guiltlessly bullied him into singing a lead part of one of their songs. He joined the choir.
Dr. Grant sang so well I bet he could make a living selling recordings of himself if the doctor thing does not work out.
This type of doctor-patient relationship is a rare thing. I hope to remember this story and give my patients such time, attention, and devotion.
That is, unless they start making me sing in front of people.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd Year (OMS II)
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences