by Dr. Grant Scarborough
I saw his name on my rounding list. I only work in the hospital four days a month, so I am not there often. Normally I work in my clinic to care for the indigent in town—but not today.
I recognized his name right away. One of my indigent patients was in the hospital again. I read the note in the chart before going to see him. The words: “Crack. Again.” A statement in the records said, “well-known to the hospitalist service,” which meant he was admitted often. His crack had caused his heart to be weak and pump very poorly making him chronically short of breath, his lungs filling with fluids. I was trying to remember my patient as I walked in, but I did not remember him being on crack.
Disheveled, labored breathing, sitting in a chair with oxygen was my patie…. wait, this guy is not my patient—he just has the same name. “Thank goodness.” I let down my guard a little. I had a lot of patients to see and since this was not my private patient, I could hustle through this guy.
This was basic medicine—continue the diuretic, wean oxygen, may need a thoracentesis for the pleural effusion, and a little more time. The reality though was his heart was really weak, and he would be chronically short of breath. It was obvious—he could not finish a sentence without taking another breath. But it was his own fault: crack cocaine. And you know what? He knew it was all his fault.
So I started to walk out. You can only help people that desire to change.
“Doctor?” I was reaching the door. “That was a nice article about you in the paper,” he said. “Huh?” Actually I had been in the paper recently—but this guy can’t read—like he reads the paper—come on—(I was thinking). He said, “I told my neighbors, ‘this doctor right here, he is my doctor.’”
My heart sank—I must have been confused. He was my patient. I completely rushed through seeing him. I did nothing but do my duty of caring for physical need. So many questions ran through my mind—Why do I care about people differently? Why do I treat him differently if he did this to himself?
“This doctor right here, he is my doctor.”
I slowly walked back in and knelt down beside his chair. Conversation restarts. “How are you doing in here?” We talked some more and then I said, “You know you are valuable. You are too valuable to waste your life on crack.” “You told me that last time doctor. The last time I was in the office. You know I thought a lot about that and I have not used crack in 6 weeks,” I was overwhelmed. Because of our conversation, and the realization that he is valuable, he stopped a 40-year addiction. As I walked out of the room he said one last thing, “Doctor, thank you for doing what you do. Don’t stop.”
Once out of the room, I broke down. If only he knew I did not remember him. If only he knew I thought less of him because of his addiction. If only he knew of my arrogance. Wow! If only I knew of my imperfections. I went back to dictate, and I could not get him out of my mind. He said some really nice things about me and he had to know. He had to know the real doctor.
I walked in again. “I think you need to know… I am not an angel. Just ask my wife.” I laughed to ease my tension. I went on to confess areas in my life where I struggle and fall short. I confessed my life of different addictions. I confessed that I am not nearly as godly as that article made me sound or as he thinks I am. “Doctor, no one is perfect, but we are both on the road.” “Yes we are.”
My struggle is not crack and my struggles are not his—but we both need Jesus. We are both broken sinners that need a Savior. We are no different. I have hurt myself with sin just as he has hurt his heart. And the reality is that our only hope is Christ. And yes, we are both on the same road.
We left confirming this verse:
That He [Jesus] who began a good work in us, will bring it to completion.
If you confess your sins to one another, you will be saved.