[This was originally written for a Christian campus publication, Revisions.]
St. Francis and the Leper
The patient came in for a refill of pain medications even though it was his first visit to the family medicine practice. The front desk staff had a letter for the supervising resident from the patient’s previous doctor, which the resident read out loud to me: “Due to difficulties in our doctor-patient relationship, we regret to inform you that we can no longer serve as your primary care physician office.”
The resident’s eyes widened with recognition. “Ah! I’ve heard about him. They said that this doc was a saint for seeing him for so long, something about him being non-compliant and all that.”
It was my job as the medical student to figure out the rest of the story. His name was Mr. Thompson* and he had a dizzying array of pathologies. He was friendly and talkative throughout the interview, but I harbored a deep mistrust for him beneath my own pleasant and cordial exterior. I had been charmed and lied to before.
His chief complaint was not, in fact, a need for pain medications. It was a set of extensive and painful leg ulcers, which remained hidden underneath his pant legs. As he rolled up his clothing to reveal the layers of bandages covering both calves, a nauseating stench filled the small room. My eyes began to water and I wondered if it smelled of gangrene. Then I wondered if it would linger on my clothes. Continue Reading…