The phone rang in the middle of the night. Like during so many other sleep-interrupting calls, I cleared the cobwebs in my brain and prepared to speak with the fellow about a new consult. Acute myocardial infarction? Ventricular tachycardia? Acute systolic heart failure? This call would be different. It was Bellevue Hospital. “Your wife and father-in-law have been in a serious car accident. Come to the hospital as soon as possible.” Life would never be the same again.
As I drove to Bellevue my mind raced. Was I still dreaming? Was this reality or a nightmare? I was somewhat comforted in knowing that she would be in excellent hands at a leading trauma hospital. Whatever needed to be done, would be. However long a recovery was required, I would never leave her side. When I arrived, I was escorted into a private room. Word would be coming soon, and I could only hope for the best. When would I be able to see her? A trauma surgeon walked into the room, paused, and said, “I am sorry for your loss.” Scripted words of sorrow from a surgeon who never knew my wife, a punctuated phrase, and a frame captured in time, created a before and an after, and changed everything you thought might be.
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Gubernikoff G. Empathy Revisited. JAMA. 2020;323(15):1447–1448. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.3790
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