Ethics, a threshold, and some high praise

I would like to start out by apologizing for not publishing any posts for the last few days. I have been both very busy and very tired. Yesterday, I spoke with a patient that I had never met before on the phone. I was trying to get his personal information so that I could apply to a few foundations on his behalf. Last October, he was having terrible stomach pain so he came to Penn to figure out what was wrong. The doctor ran some tests and discovered that he had a stage IV cancer diagnosis. The cancer had metastasized to both his liver and his lungs, meaning almost certain death within a year. What troubled this patient the most was the way that he found out that he had cancer. Apparently, the surgeon was extremely blunt when he told the patient, which depressed the him greatly. I was quite saddened by this news. I want to be a surgeon later in my life and I hope that I will be able to use this experience to become a better physician. I will ensure that my time working with desperate patients will stick with me and help shape me into a more well-rounded doctor, who can deliver painful news in the best possible manner. In the end, this patient told me that the surgeon gave him little hope that he would live. He said that every night he goes to bed wondering if he’ll wake up and as a result has begun praying more often. When I called to help him financially, he broke down crying and told me that he thought that I was a sign from God and that I was acting as his messenger on Earth. My offering of help gave him faith that there are people looking out for him, and additional hope that he may be able to overcome the odds and beat his cancer. I was caught off guard and left speechless. All that I could muster out was a thank you. I was unaware of how large the impact my project is having. This patient and other appreciative patients give me the strength to continue trying my hardest and to carry on despite my lack of energy.

Today, I had a discussion about medical ethics with my coworkers. It started when I learned that many doctors have to treat patients even though they may have a rational objection. Trish told me a story of a lung cancer patient that had long hair that began to fall off as he underwent chemotherapy. Once he lost his hair , his doctors, all of whom were Jewish, realized that he had a swastika tattooed on the back of his neck. Nevertheless they gave him the level of care that they gave all of their other patients. I hope that I never encounter a moral dilemma where I have to make a choice like this. As I am not sure if I will have the maturity to make all of the right decisions.

I ate lunch today in CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania) and saw how cheerful and bright everything was. This made me wish that I worked in the adjacent hospital, until Robert, another volunteer, pointed out a sad fact. Where we work, patients are fairly regularly sent to hospice care or simple pass away. This is saddening but often accepted because of their old ages. In CHOP, when a patient dies, this is devastating for both the patient’s family and the medical staff. I do not think that I would be able to handle a month of working in pediatric oncology. This I reaffirmed my belief that I do not want to specialize in pediatric surgery. That field of medicine calls for a stronger willed person than me.

On top of all of that, I passed one milestone and came incredibly close to reaching a second one. Today, I worked my one-hundredth hour and earned $9,500 during that time. To put this in perspective, for every hour that I work, I am essentially raising $95 for patients. That makes this an extremely high paying job, more than 13 times the minimum wage. Hopefully, tomorrow I will pass my goal of raising $10,000 for my patients. My next goal will be to raise $15,000 by March 15th, my last day of work.


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