November 14, 2011
In my football days, there was always at least one practice a week that was meant to simulate a game situation. Any coach worth his salt knew that practice and the actual game are very, very different psychologically. So they'd try to simulate that intensity and unpredictable nature of the real thing. Same is true with interviewing patients and taking a physical. We trained on actors who were healthy and mobile. They did their best to pretend at being ill but even when they were acting sick, it was something simple like a stomache ache from an ulcer. Acted pain and real pain are worlds apart. The patients I'm seeing at MD Anderson? They are hospitalized. And people aren't hospitalized for no reason. They are truly sick. So all that practice I did on the actors, my wife, even my dog, went right out the window when you're trying to interview a patient who's lungs are so full of fluid they have difficulty completing a sentence. Or, the patient in his twenties on methadone who's eye movements and acute sensitivity to nausea are EXACTLY like what my brother experienced. And so on. Nothing much prepares you for that except the real thing. And as hard as it is, I'm grateful for the opportunity.