The Human Touch
Published on 03/01/2019 |
Mr. Ron1 strolled into the office. I grabbed his arm as he struggled to sit in my dental chair. It was my first time seeing him as a patient, but after scanning his chart, I knew that he had an array of medical problems.
We chatted, but he did not seem in the sharing mood. When done with the treatment, I walked him out and as with any other patient, we said goodbye. A few appointments later, he returned for a simple procedure, but this time he seemed discouraged and weighed down with a sad expression showing on his face. He usually doesn’t talk much but this time he hardly said a word. When we chatted, he kept his eyes fixed ahead, barely looking at me. After taking routine vitals, I always asked the follow-up question, “Are there any changes in your health history since your last visit?”
Without changing his gaze, he slowly muttered that he has been diagnosed with a very advanced stage of cancer, and the doctor told him he had only six months to live. He looked over to me after getting out what had been on his mind.
I was in shock. What does one say or do in a moment like this? We sat in silence for what seemed like many minutes.
Usually, after greeting the patient and chatting for a few minutes, I busily get their required treatment done. There is so much to do and very little time. Between frequent visits to the clinic supply window for instruments and equipment, and searching and waiting for the attending to give a start check and to approve treatment steps, students have little time to do their task properly.
My attending walked by a few times, most likely waiting to get me started but suddenly the procedure planned that day seemed trivial and irreverent compared to what he just shared. I told Ron how sorry I was to hear the terrible news. After a few moments of silence, I asked if I could pray with him. He agreed.
After my praying, he had tears coming from his eyes; he quickly wiped them away. I was surprised at his reaction. There was a peace that came over him. He seemed hopeful, at least enough to continue with our treatment planned for the day in an eager manner. For the next few weeks I prayed for him.
Although I never saw him again, I called weeks later and his partner picked up the phone, notifying me that Ron was not doing well and that he would not be returning for more treatment. I sent my regards. My hope and prayer is that he had peace in knowing that Christ is His Comforter.
I’m not alone with this kind of experience. A classmate shared with me her interaction with a patient she prayed with before a procedure. A bond was formed by that prayer and she strived to put the patient at ease throughout the procedure. My classmate describes how meaningful it was for her to simply smile at this patient when they were done and have the patient smile back. This was a big deal because the patient had kept her smile repressed, embarrassed at her imperfect dentition. Together, both celebrated with big smiles.
While it is very satisfying to have days when goals are met or exceeded, and everything is running smoothly, the most meaningful and remembered moments are the interactions that we have, and the impact we leave behind in our relationships with patients, faculty, staff, and colleagues.
Our “cup” needs to be filled with the love of God before we can share with others. This comes through spending intentional meaningful time with the Author of love.
This became clearer to be after attending the AMEN conference two years ago in Indian Wells. It was inspiring to hear how dentists are praying with their patients and incorporating prayer boxes or spiritual messages throughout their office setting. It gave me so many ideas of how I can be the best Christian in my role as a future healthcare provider. I am excited to continue to be involved with AMEN, especially as graduation approaches. As my last year of dental school concludes, my desire is to prioritize seeking strength and guidance from above and sharing His love with others. Sometimes we may never know what a kind word, listening ears, or offering a word of encouragement or prayer may do. The human touch can do wonders.
Let’s take those extra moments and look for opportunities to be used daily in our interactions with those we work with. Let our prayer be “Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service.” – Steps to Christ, p. 70.
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