The wounded healer

PFSP Perspectives

March 21, 2022

Contributed by Dr. Ghazala Radwi, a hematologist and transfusion medicine physician based in Edmonton. She is the Medical Lead, North Sector, for Transfusion Medicine at Alberta Precision Labs.

He died in the fall of 2021, following 20 weeks in ICU (not COVID related). I have few words that can describe the magnitude of my grief through the many weeks of seeing my father suffer with numerous nosocomial complications as we navigated a health care system that had been stretched beyond its limits, weighed down by compassion fatigue. 

Over the course of my career, through internal medicine residency, hematology training, and then several years working in a busy leukemia and bone marrow transplant unit, death and suffering were not strangers to me. But I was left reeling as I witnessed my 76-year-old father’s drastic and progressive loss of basic human body functions. He lost the ability to independently breathe, cough, swallow, sit up, turn over, stretch his arm to relieve an itch somewhere on his body … and the list could go on. I spent an hour every morning breathing, meditating, and praying, just to gather the energy to face another day of seeing my father suffer. So much of the suffering had been preventable had the medical system not been bursting beyond its seams.

But what felt like the strongest punch to the gut was the mechanical sense that accompanied the medical care my father received. The busy landscape of medicine with its lists of differential diagnosis, discussions of risks and benefits, diagnostic procedures and treatment options seemed strikingly barren and harsh from this vantage point. I felt angry and helpless amidst an unwanted, growing existential crisis. Why is this happening? How do I make sense of this immense suffering? What is missing here? These questions came alive for me in ways they had not before.

Continue reading "The wounded healer" in the March-April 2022 issue of Alberta Doctors' Digest

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