Being a small town family doctor demands a lot from an individual. The time, energy, frustrations, heartaches, headaches, and other struggles for many go far beyond any monetary reward anyone is rural practice will ever make. Sometimes this type of practice, however, does have a way of giving back to the doctor and just when he needs it most.
The last patient of the day wasn't in the exam room, but in his living room. The nicest man one could ever meet he sat in his recliner chair hooked up to his oxygen. He looked much frailer than the last time I saw him two months earlier, but still with a smile on his face as I walked into the room all the same. He and his family needed some advice about what to do and he could no longer muster the strength to get in the car and come to my office.
We talked about how he was feeling--pain, breathlessness, anxiety, diarrhea. I walked around the small home off a gravel country road and saw what challenges he had moving around his bathroom and sleeping in his bed. I listened to his heart and lungs just because that seems to be something a doctor should do. Then with we sat down with his wife, daughters, and daughter-in-law and talked.
The family's biggest concern was having the equipment and support to keep the patient at home until he died. His biggest worry was being a burden on his family. We talked about hospice which they had heard of, but needed more information about. Everyone agreed without hesitation this would be the best way to go. As I made my way out everyone shook my hand and said how relieved they felt I could come out and offer this advice. They were so glad some doctors still paid house calls.
For me I felt so good at the end of this visit I decided I just might have to go back in a week or two and see how he's doing.