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Posted 10 months ago
“I've tried twice, Mary tried three times. The patient in 257 doesn’t have any veins left. Does anyone feel lucky?” No one in the nurses’ station volunteered. After three weeks in the ICU on continuous IV fluids and units of blood, the likelihood of getting a “good stick” was somewhere between slim and none. I looked at the patient’s chart and felt a twinge of relief. Dr. Hinds was listed as his second doctor and he was in the house. I paged him and gave him the scoop.
About 15 minutes later, still in scrubs and a cap, he came through the double doors and headed straight for the charts. I filled him in while he scoped out the notes and then we went in to see the patient. I knew he was between cases in the OR and didn’t have much time.
Mr. Johnson lay semiconscious on the bed, his pale skin only slightly darker than the hospital sheets he rested upon. I’m not sure 'rested' is the right word—he was pretty much held captive by the vast array of tubes entering and exiting every orifice he had, and then some. Dr. Hinds gently picked up one withered arm and examined it, and then the other. I waited for his diagnosis. Without saying a word, though, he pulled up a chair and sat down. He took the nearest limp limb and resting it over the side of the bed he began talking to Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson couldn’t answer if he’d wanted to. His throat was filled with an apparatus that sounded as if it was gasping and hissing a giant sigh every few seconds. It didn’t matter. Dr. Hinds gently massaged and milked the arm and talked some more. And some more. Not about anything important. Just stuff. How his son Davey was doing in school and about the new bird dog he’d just gotten. I looked up at the clock, a little nervous about Dr. Hinds being late for his next case. Dr. Hinds saw my glance, shrugged, and then talked some more. He told a couple of really dumb jokes and massaged the arm some more.
A nurse came to the doorway to let Dr. Hinds know his next case was ready. He nodded. And then he visited some more, continuing his one way conversation as if they were neighbors on a Saturday afternoon commencing to visit over the fence. And finally, when he was ready, he pulled out a large bore angiocath and inserted into a vein that I swear he made magically appear. The flash of blood appeared giving us the sign that the vein was good and ready to go. I connected the tubing and once again we were in business.
As we left the room I marveled at how he had manifested a vein that just wasn’t there. “How can you do that? I don’t know of anyone that can come close to your touch.” Dr. Hinds is one of those people whose eyes really do twinkle when he smiles. He shrugged and said, “It just takes time. Everyone is always in too much of a hurry. That’s the best gift you can give your patient: Time.”
Dr. Hinds eventually moved to another city to be closer to some family, and the hospital closed and rebuilt out on the edge of town. A lot of things have changed since then. But the wisdom of his words hasn’t changed a bit. The best gift you can give your patient is time.