Friday, 14 December 2007


14th December 2007
11 Days to go till Christmas

tlm fact: I currently look rather like a yeti, i've not had my hair cut since before we went to Solomon Islands, it is as long as it has ever been now. Desperately in need of a trim.

Today was my last day on gastro medicine, i've really enjoyed my time there and actually felt, for the first time, that I can do this doctoring business. I got a good evaluation too which was a nice way to finish off.

There was a sad part to today though, there is an elderly man on the ward at the moment, he's 84, it was his birthday today. He came in with a very mild MI, but has a multitude of co-morbidity. He is almost immobile, he is virtually completely deaf and blind, can just about whisper the occasional sentence and has serious trouble swallowing. He looks even older than he is but he's a really nice old man, even in his state he has a sense of humour.

Today the consultant did his ward round and after trying to explain to the old man what the plan was (by shouting in his ear), he muttered "why, don't you just shoot me", I suspect this was partly a joke but partly a plee to be left alone to die. It actually made me quite sad, this poor old man, who has a lovely old wife who does her best to look after him, is virtually bed-ridden, deaf and almost blind and dumb - what sort of life is that. Later that day it was reported that he couldn't swallow at all, and it was suggested he should have an NG tube passed so he can be fed. The consultant saw sense in my opinion by suggesting this might not be the best idea. In the end, the old man had said that he didn't want it. He will die, its just a matter of when, I hope he gets some enjoyment out of his last few hours/days/weeks. Bless him.

I guess it made me realise how vulnerable and fragile human life is, I don't ever want to get old :(


Elaine said...

We none of us want to get old, but the alternative is worse! I speak as one who is approaching her three score year and ten with multiple morbity, but with no intention of giving up - yet.

However, I think there comes a time (I always refer to it as the time to call in the vet!)

Ms-Ellisa said...

Of course you do- getting older means that you are healthy and fortunate enough to be still living...

Maybe what you really meant is "grow old gracefully"... It is very important in my opinion to be able to enjoy life, not just surviving...

PhD scientist said...

Speaking from the mid 40s, I'm not looking forward to getting old (as in past 70), but Elaine's attitude is reproaching me, and my parents are 77 (father) and 70 (mother) and are still getting a lot out of their lives.

I always imagine getting old and frail is one of those points where either having interests, or having (younger) family around makes a big difference. Sure one needs a reason to go on - luckily my dad has his work (another scientist - family trade), his pad in France and the grandchildren, and my mum has her two main hobbies, travel and grandchildren. It's that old quality of life thing, innit? But in years 1 and 2 of medical school it is all rather abstract.

Re the very last days and your elderly gent, Mrs PhD used to spend a lot of time as a hospital doc trying to get end-of-life patients sorted out / looked after properly and kept comfortable and pain-free, which she reckoned was as big a part of the job as fixing the fixable.