Practicing What I Preach, All The Way To The 22nd Floor

A couple of people have called me out on my published claim that I will walk up twenty-two flights of hospital stairs to see one of my inpatients, rather than take the elevator.

I’ve been tempted to respond in the style of my fave potty-mouthed baddass Peloton cycling instructor, Robin Arzon, heavy on the salty adjectives: Yo, this sh*t is real, girl! If you think I’m sh*tting you, why don’t you come with me on my rounds and see for your sorry self that I’m not f*cking around, okay?

Instead, I offer the story of my lovely patient who happened to land in a private room on the fancy twenty-second floor of our hospital during her recent prolonged illness.

The first time I found the time to go and see her and trekked up all twenty-two flights, she wasn’t in the room. Dismayed, I asked for paper and a pen from the nurses’ station and left her a little note saying that I would be back.

The second time, up and up and up again, she was there, but so was physical therapy. I apologized and offered a brief explanation for being slightly out of breath and sweaty, then jumped in to a rapid review of her issues, with PT standing by.

My patient stared at me for a few seconds, then exclaimed: “You SERIOUSLY just walked up here? My doctor WALKED UP twenty-two flights of stairs, to see me?” She hadn’t heard anything I’d said about her case.

I laughed and reassured her that I LIKE and ENJOY and PREFER to take the stairs.

Tick tock went the clock, then she responded: “Doctor, I am very sorry to have to say this, but, you are nuts.” Still, she smiled, and we got in a two-minute discussion of her care.

Later that afternoon, my nurse sent me a phone message from the patient. It read:

Patient says to tell Dr. Tello she can call the room phone instead of walking up all those stairs. The patient feels bad and is worried about Dr. Tello’s health.” (This is all 100% true BTW. You can ask my nurse in this case, who happens to share the first name of my favorite Peloton instructor.)

I chuckled, but the patient’s case was complex, her stay was prolonged, and her hearing is hard, so an in-person visit was the only option.

On my last trek up, my patient was out of bed, seated in the recliner, nibbling on her low-sodium hospital lunch, and gazing out her window:

The winter view from on high at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.

My patient and I were finally able to sit down and discuss some of the big issues and major decisions she faced. It was a meaningful and purposeful meeting. She still thinks I’m nuts, though.

But hopefully, you all now believe: this sh*t is real.

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