We've been seeing several patients getting "end of the health plan year" check ups or chronic disease visits. Christmas is an issue for most. "What are your Christmas plans?" I ask almost everyone. Their individual and family traditions are interesting to hear. Most involve family and two family oriented sites. The shared custody situations and multiple adult children with grandchildren are the driving force in their Christmas travel and activities. Many of their plans are impacted by their current illness, especially when it is infectious. I include in my recommendations the implications for the context of their Christmas endeavors on their therapies. They get to decide what they will do with my suggestions and the contingencies that I list for them.
Several patients asked me how I am doing. It takes me out of a patient centered "trance" and I'm temporarily fumbling to reflect on myself. Once I shift my role back to human from doctor, I find reference to myself and how I am doing and I respond to their inquiry briefly. It's not easy in the exam room after decades of patient focus, but it's important.
At about 3:45 Friday before Christmas, I start to feel a little glow of delight: Christmas Joy has arrived. The last patient is thankful for a diagnosis and helpful strategy to treat his condition. I'm off to Christmas. Home to wrap presents and watch black and white movies on Turner Classic Movie Channel. Christmas is near. I'm ready ahead of time. I sense the part of me that is bubbly about Christmas and the part of me that has layers and layers of memories about Christmas. That should have been my response to the inquiring patients. The bubbly feelings have to be more readily accessible. I'm working on it. Patients and doctors have to stay close to their humanity.