Mike Cope's blog

Sunday, April 17, 2005

For Matt as you enter another week of tests . . . . Rachel Naomi Remen had just lost a breast cancer patient who was only 37. She spent some time later with the woman's husband and four-year-old daughter. As they visited, the child reached into her pocket and pulled out a heart. "It's a feelie heart," the dad explained. "She never goes anywhere without it. Dr. Remen discovered that the heart had been sent from a bereavement center in Tacoma, Washington that ministers to children who've suffered the death of a loved one. "No two hearts are exactly alike, and each has a life of its own. . . . It is common for children who have grieved to give their feelie heart to other children who are going through hard times. One little girl gave her heart to her father when her parents divorced. A small boy sent his to his teacher when her own little boy died." Remen thought about all the physicians she worked with who came through her Continuing Medical Education program to help them deal with death. They're trained to be ashamed of deaths or not to talk about them, but many of the best doctors carry around their repressed losses for years. Here's what she did: "Some time ago, I wrote to the women who make the feelie hearts for Bridges to tell them about this work, about the oncologists, emergency-room physicians, surgeons, and internists who have spent time with us and about the fifty first- and second-year UCSF medical students who take our course on the art of healing every year. They sent us hundreds of little velvet hearts. They fit into the pocket of a white coact perfectly. Several of the students have told me that they find that if they hold their feelie heart while they study, it relaxes them. But perhaps it does more than this. The first- and second-year medical students at our school and at every medical school are remarkable young people, on fire with the spirit of service. They are people who care deeply and passionately. Research at medical schools throughout the country shows that often this passion does not survive the rigors of the training. Sometimes I think of one of these young people, late at night, struggling to memorize the countless facts on which the scientific practice of medicine is based and holding on to a little velvet heart. The image fills me with an irrational sense of hope."

5 Comments:

  • As a "grey-beard" physician I feel for Matt and even more for the docs discussed in your blog. Although standard medical education often tries to galvanize physicians against "feeling" pain, grief and loss- the best ones and the ones I want to look after me are the ones who still remember how to care.

    By Blogger ehenderson, at 4/17/2005 04:00:00 PM  

  • My grandmother is currently in an ICU unit on life support due to septic shock. having just returned from spending 5 days there with my family I am most thankful for those doctors who, not only demonstrate professionalism, but exhibit compassion that goes beyond simply doing their jobs. They offer so much to those in my family struggling the most with this.

    By Blogger Chad, at 4/17/2005 04:07:00 PM  

  • Matt, they can't test the deep compassion that you will no doubt demonstrate daily to the people that God will place in your path. Help from the overflow of your love for your King and you will heal many!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 4/17/2005 08:14:00 PM  

  • I have been a cancer nurse for the past ten years working with both children and adults. Almost everyone I meet ask me "How can you do that? Aren't you sad all the time? Even though I have lost many patients- what an impact they have made on my life! I am such a better person for caring for some of these patients. It is when a loss of life doesn't bother you that you need to be worried. During the hard times- I alway refer back John 9:1-3. Sidenote: Ronnie Norman had a great sermon this last Sunday on "Good Mourning"- Blessed are those who can care and have compassion for this fallen and chaotic world.

    By Blogger sara hughes, at 4/18/2005 01:31:00 PM  

  • A friend sent me the link to your blog. Being a first year medical student myself and trying not to lose the passion and desires that brought me into this field in the first place, I found your message encouraging. Thanks!

    By Blogger michele MD, at 4/18/2005 04:07:00 PM  

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