Letter to my patient the stranger

Subject: Letter to my patient the stranger
From: Your Intern
Date: 20 May 2022

Dear stranger,

Today I realize you've passed away and my heart can't quite process this feeling. Six months ago when we met I only wanted to focus on your disease. It´s funny how at the beginning all I knew about you was what I could read on a computer screen. I knew every single detail of how your body was working and what medical problems hunted your chart. Your mind was elsewhere and your loved ones were hard to pin down. The weeks passed and all of a sudden when your medical conditions were no longer a novelty, when you had taught me soo much about medicine that my brain could not keep up, I really started to know YOU. I think back about what I knew about you and it feels like little pieces of your life puzzle. You see, you shared with me small details about small days in your life. How you love scary movies, how you loved my hair because you were a hairdresser once upon a time, how you got your tattoos for no particular reason and how you had rekindled a relationship with the family that you once thought lost. Of course, I was not alone in taking care of you, and over half a year in the hospital, you gave others some more pieces of the puzzle, sometimes small sometimes a bit bigger but I can say for sure it was always something they could remember you by.

I´ve always thought it´s interesting how as doctors we see hundreds of patients a year but only a few stick in our minds. It´s not always the medically interesting or the sickest of all but those who remind us of our humanity. Those with whom we laugh and those with whom we share similarities, those who spark in us feelings of joy.

With the news of your death, I can´t quite put words to what I feel, it´s not sadness because I knew you were ready to go, because in a way even though you were essentially a stranger I knew you had lived, really lived. It´s also not relief because I will always feel like we could have done more for you, not medically (that part we thought about for hours and hours) but maybe just as human beings, maybe we should have known you better maybe just small pieces of your puzzle were not enough, maybe you should have not been such a stranger. Or maybe this is what life is. A series of moments where you share just a part of yourself with others.

I hope you knew we thought of you, I thought of you, and my co-interns thought of you long after we had our turn taking care of you. I hope you know that I will always remember what you thought me, that taking care of you was a privilege, and that because of you, I learned more, not only about medicine but also just about life. I hope that during those last few days you had no regrets, I hope you were not scared, and I hope you were in peace.

Thank you,