Ask the right question (NaBloPoMo Day 4/30)

“Have you seen my [Nintendo] DS?”

Some patients take “do you have any questions for me” very seriously when they come to clinic.  They have a list.  They take notes.  Others stare at you blankly, overwhelmed by what they have just heard. Or they are simply befuddled because your explanation of how DNA is a 4 letter code largely responsible for their tantrum-ing 4 year old didn’t quite make sense.

As physicians, we welcome questions.  They indicate that the patient is taking ownership of their health, that a partnership is being forged, that we did a great job explaining this or that, that our compliance rate will go up and our rate of no show will go down.

“Have you seen my DS?”

I was my the way from one clinic area to another to sign paperwork when this little one appeared out of nowhere and accosted me.  He had no hair, except for the thinest of fuzz tethered to the nape of his neck, and was dragging an IV pole with multiple infusion bags attached to it.

“Have you seen my DS?”

“No, my friend, I haven’t.  I’m sorry.  Is it in your exam room?”

“No.  It’s very expensive. I have to find it.”

“Have you asked your nurse?”

“Yeah but she doesn’t know.”

“Well I think she will be your best bet to find it, if it is here.”

He spun his heels and his IV pole in unison and began marching down the hallway.  There was a certain spring in his step, a determination to find his DS no doubt.  I watched him walk away.  He kept the IV pole, almost twice as tall as he was, close to his body, so that there was plenty of slack in the tubing.  Clearly he was a pro, a veteran of the cancer wars.  But none of that mattered because in the moment he was just a kid who couldn’t find his favorite toy.  And while I couldn’t answer his question, I was lucky enough to share that moment with him, feel present, and talk about what really matters (the DS, not the illness).  I really hope he found it.

It’s all about asking the right question.

(What is NaBloMoPo? Lookee here)

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