22 July 2009

No means no

I was in the hemodialysis unit recently, chatting with a patient about how his life had been affected by HD and how he generally feels. As corny as it may sound, I find these touchy-feely encounters with patients to be incredibly rewarding and informative. I think those of us who are healthy underestimate the impact of chronic disease, but simaltaneouly underestimate people's adaptive resiliance. This summer I have been fortunate to have several one-on-one opportunities, but group interactions of this kind are a regular part of our medical school curriculum.

Anway, this one was especially awkward because the patient proposed to me several times and repeatedly offered to have my children. He was neither demeted nor joking. He wanted to take me out to dinner that night and put a ring on my finger. He thought it was a genetic imperitive that I breed because I (apparently) am "drop-dead gorgeous and a genius." Just about every question I asked was answered with some variation on this theme (along with some genuine insight into renal failure) for almost two hours.

An example interaction:
Me: Do you have other health problems too?
Him: I'm healthy enough, if you know what I mean; no disrespect.
Me: How about high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
Him: Yes, I got both of those, lady.
Me: Are you on medications for them?
Him: Yes, but I don't take em. I don't believe in pills. I seen to many people die from pills.
Me: I suspect those were different kinds of pills. It's important that you take your medicines.
Him: I feel fine. I'll take them if you hand them out though.
Me: Your health could get a lot worse if you don't control your blood pressure and cholesterol. You want to make it to transplant don't you?
Him: I would take them if I had you to come home to, lady.
Me: Do you live with anyone now?
Him: No, you can move right in. I'll take you out to dinner tonight and put a ring on your finger.

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