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Read the handwritten ER doctor’s note that’s gone viral on Reddit

February 13, 2013 9:35 am by | 158 Comments

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Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 1.16.40 PMComputers might be able to take over some of what a doctor does, but they sure can’t do this.

Last week, Reddit user mcharb13 posted a photo of a handwritten note from a doctor that he said has changed his life. It’s a condolence note that was sent to his father by an emergency room physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital who had treated his mother, he told the Huffington Post. His mother had breast cancer and died several hours after being taken to the ER.

In the note, the doctor explains that this is the first such note she’s written in 20 years of ER work (the name of the doctor was omitted from the photo, but Redditors seemed to think it was a female, based on the handwriting.)

“Our encounters are typically hurried and do not always allow for more personal interaction,” she wrote. “However, in your case, I felt a special connection to your wife, who was so engaging and cheerful in spite of her illness and trouble breathing.”

The note struck a chord with at least 2.1 million people and prompted more than 1,300 of them to leave comments. Many of the comments have come from people who have also lost parents, and many have come from physicians as well.

One said:

They don’t train us how to deal with the human element of our job very well. Most react by developing a deep callus over their hearts. Some of us are down-right evil in how jaded we’ve become. I’m sure other healthcare workers can testify. So, it is a true testament to your parents relationship for this to pierce beneath that callus. Whatever they were doing, apparently, they were doing it right. It sounds like you have a couple of great parents. Copy them.

Another wrote:

I pray to God that when I make it as a trauma surgeon, I do not become desensitized to the sometimes inevitable loss of life of my fellow man or woman, nor desensitized to the joy of saving or helping to improve the quality of life of my patients.

It’s a reminder that, even in the digital age, bedside manner and compassion go a long way.

 [Photo from Reddit user mcharb13]

Copyright 2014 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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160 comments
sherrybb
sherrybb

MJL...your folks sound awesome...i know some doctors like them too. Hats off to them and all like them. Thanks for sharing...i can see why they are beloved.

MJL
MJL

My parents are both ER doctors.  Every night at the dinner table, they'd talk about (unnamed!) patients and how they could do better next time.  They'd cry over losses and celebrate good outcomes.  Every time administration put some new restriction on them (for instance, they now are given an ideal time per patient, and if they spend too long, they don't get their bonus), they'd fight it as hard as they could if it would impact patient care.  They weren't atypical either.  I knew all their colleagues, and it was the same at their tables.  They are beloved in our small community, but seldom get bonuses or raises because they take 'too much time' with their patients.  People tend to blame doctors because the doctor is the face they see in a clinic, but often things like how condolences are worded, how long they spend with you, how much mental energy they spend fighting with the cheap-yet-unwieldy medical chart software, and whether they even have a splint to give you for your sprain is out of their hands.

rar113
rar113

When my mother A"H died of colon cancer 40 years ago, my father was paying the bills, and noticed he didn't have one from the surgeon who had done several procedures to relieve the pressure and blockages in her bowel.  When he inquired, the surgeon told him, "I didn't heal her, I just relieved some of her pain.  I can't bill you for that."  Medicine has come a long way in 40 years, and maybe she could have been saved if it were today.  But this kind of integrity and compassion, I think we were better off back then when medicine wasn't a multi-trillion dollar industry.

Donna
Donna

This has touched my heart and made me realize all doctors are not like the surgeon I had.  Dr. William Kessler of Austin Tx. was to do a Biopsy on a spot of my lung to see if it was cancer and even sent a letter to my referring doctor stating this.  Dr. Kessler took out 50% of my lung with no Biopsy to see if it was cancer-it was Not Cancer.  I am now on oxygen.  This letter helps let us all know there are great doctors out there.

Donna

APage
APage

I had an ER doctor save my life, and I couldn't be more thankful for how he helped me and my husband in the crazy hours between admission and surgery.

lah30303
lah30303

Personally, when it comes to ER situations, I would prefer having a doctor that doesn't care until after the fact. I would make no attempt to connect with the doctor until I was already helped. I'd prefer the doctor to be focused on thinking clearly and logically rather than worrying and being more stressed than the ER job must already be by becoming attached.

DogEars
DogEars

Funny couldnt get my doctors to listen to anything for 13 years they ignored me and treated me for Fibromyalgia all the while  i had lyme disease had to treat it myself with Collodial silver.  After 13 years of being deadly sick i feel great today.  I dont trust a one of them anymore.  It is refreshing at least one listened to someone.

Manchie
Manchie

I met one ER doctor that I would give anything if he was a family doctor & I even ask him if he had an office because I would love to have him for my family doctor. He had so much compassion for his patients. Unfortunately he was only ER. He was so good with his patients. Much appreciation for him because he was exceptionally good with my father when he broke his hip. Wish all his doctors after he left the ER would have been like him.

Manchie
Manchie

It is very rare that you find a doctor so caring. Most are in it for the money & don't really care. I have had several surgeries & only one doctor has really cared. It is good to read this & know there are some out there that care about their patients. This was an uplifting story, respect for that doctor.

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

Just have to wonder how many more of these you'll see after the full implementation of Obamacare.I would  hope not many.

Tessa
Tessa

What an amazing story. Can identify with this doctor. Am a retired nurse, and experienced this too. The bottom line was efficiency, cost containment NO overtime.

No listening to patients, no holding their hand when they were fearful and alone, just rushing from one crisis to the next in a horribly busy ICU for 20 years. Went to long term care. . .and after4 years of going home emotionally broken daily, due to inadequate staffing, poor care due to same and letting my patients without family die alone again due to short staffing, left to do home health. The paperwork was horrific, was able to spend more time with my patients but at the sacrifice of my family time, finishing paperwork at home. Fixable? Oh yes, but no company will run any facility without big profits. The patients suffer, the staff burns out, big profits are made. Looking back, my career was rewarding because I broke rules, clocked out then finished paperwork. Thousands of hours of volunteer time, that made a difference to some of my patients. Would I do it again? Of course, we shouldn't be paid for kindnesses.

GuestyGuest
GuestyGuest

This was not written by a doctor. I can read the handwriting.

RDaneelOlivaw
RDaneelOlivaw

As a physician and as someone who trains physicians, I can tell you that the human connection is essential to our effectiveness. It is something that is difficult to select for through the medical school selection process, but it becomes evident in training and in practice.

I've heard of the myth of the physician who is a complete jerk but make up for it with their brilliant clinical or surgical skills.I can tell you that those types of physicians survive in spite of their personality and there are other physicians who are just as technically brilliant but are more successful because they can relate to their patients, their colleagues, and their staff.  I love my patients, and I love my students who show love for their patients.

Kellie Pritchett
Kellie Pritchett

I think that for every caring physician there is probably one that is either desensitized to the human aspect of medicine and those that view their patients as a variable in an experiment that could supply with the chance of notariety, as in the case of m,y grandmother's brain tumor.  Not only did the surgery leave her unable to speak, walk, or even feed herself, but it left her with the same life expectancy as doing nothing.  Through it all, my grandmother was brave and my mother devotedly stayed by her side and cared for her.  I wish we had this doctor.

Kellie Pritchett

esideheart
esideheart

I have met very few doctors who have not responded to a patient with kindness and dignity. Maybe most have not the time to write a note to follow their care, but their hearts are in the touch and direction of patient care, and most doctors go beyond the plans for their care. Don't be so hard on your care taker. It takes a special person to work with patients day in and day out, 24/7, doing the right thing for their care. From 0 days old to beyond geriatric ages, having the patience and working through the tiredness, praying for a clear mind, writing down the symptoms for the right tests being ready to pass on to the shifts. 

We all care for our patients no matter what mood they are in, wanting to get them well, comfortable, and be able to comfort the family in dire needs. 

Pray for us, for the patient and most of all, have faith God is with us.  

Alex123456789
Alex123456789

It hasn't "gone vial." If it's on Reddit, that means it's in one place.

Randall
Randall

There is HOPE after all for humanity...

Seriously
Seriously

For all of the negative comments directed at caregivers: Do you have any idea the patient load most doctors have? How many hours they spend taking care of their patients every day? Not 8-5 on weekdays, but including weekends, holidays, 2 a.m. calls when a patient requests to see them rather the on-call doc at hospitals? How much of their off time that they spend working, even if they're not getting paid for it? How about how much time they miss with their very OWN families? How many dance recitals, graduations, Christmas mornings they miss with their own loved ones because they made a commitment to care for others? I don't know a single doctor who is doing it for the money. For anyone to complain because a caregiver didn't write them a personal note, come to a funeral, etc. is pretty selfish. Maybe they should have been taking care of some of those social graces instead of caring for your loved one? Yeah, didn't think so.

thatdamnliberal
thatdamnliberal

I totally wonder if this is actually a doctor because I have never seen a doctor write legibly!!

judemignacca
judemignacca

I must tell you that while everyone is surprised that this note came from a doctor, I am ONLY surprised because they are so busy and their time with patients in the ED is hurried and centered on treatment, not emotions. However, doctors have gone through many years of intensive training and education to basically serve others, and so they do have compassion and caring. Also, things like this happen in the realm of nursing EVERY DAY. Nurses wear their hearts on their sleeves. Love your nurses, because they surely love you.

QUAKEPC
QUAKEPC

Most dr's Handwriting is fine! They write 'bad' you think? Wrong.!! What your seeing is Shorthand tied in with coding to prevent forgery and understanding. Its something they do at once- shorthand, latin,greek mainly in cursive. If it wasn't legible do you really think the pharmacy would tolerate it? HELL NO!

No you understand now don't you?! Its very hard to read or forge something you dont understand. This is how they catch forgers who will change the 10 to a 100 etc. Yet- the dr MAY have wrote 10 mg with some other scratch. What they REALLY wrote was the dose and drug in english numeric AND another UNREADABLE format like Shorthand,Greek etc.. Now you've learned something my friend.

franciskelly6
franciskelly6

These kind of notes circulate almost daily in a small church.

deebee
deebee

Wonderful gesture. It reminds me of the opposite situation. My mother died and afterwards I wrote a letter of thanks to her doctor of eight years. I received nothing, not even a sympathy card from his office. Funny thing is that a couple years before, my mother had to put her dog down as it was so old. She was surprised and touched as was I when she received a card from the veterinarian expressing his sympathy.  

CarmaLeeMatlock
CarmaLeeMatlock

when my husband died, the attending dr. was very comassionate towards me. and her words comforted me as she explained all the medical problems he had in terms i understood and spoke to me as a person not just another passer by. she was a great help to me and she also attended the memorial service an that was the 1st time i ever met her.

Proud Dad
Proud Dad

My daughter is a CNP and is an oncologist in the Melanoma Clinic at a large Midwest clinic. All of her patents are terminal and she strives to treat them to give them the longest and best life possible. I could never do her job. She has to deliver bad news to patients daily. She is a fine clinician and a wonderful person. Many of her patients reschedule their appointments if she is not there rather than see a physician. She regularly sends notes to the relatives of her patients that have died.  She even traveled 75 miles once, to attend the funeral of a long time patient. I am so-o-s proud of her.

sunshineyellow
sunshineyellow

My father was in a car accident in 1997 and spent two weeks in the trauma center at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. He passed away from his injuries. The doctors and nurses were so kind and we were especially impressed with the care of the chief trauma doctor, Dr. Gabe Oschner. He wrote a condolence letter to both my sister and me in response to the Thank you notes we sent him. I will always treasure that letter as proof of the compassion shown to my beloved father. 

brimley
brimley

My amazing wife, Christine, died from cancer at the age of only 38. Her oncologist really became involved in our struggle and was much more than just a doctor to us. He also spoke at her funeral. This level of personal involvement must be very difficult for a physician, but meant so much to our family. We will never forget the true love and care of Dr. Jonathan whisenet.   

BradKeling
BradKeling

my wife passed away in 2012  nurses at the hospital were there evey time she needed them  and they cried the day she left there to come home for the final time week later got a card from them all signed it and expressed their feelings for her also the nurses when she was doing dialysis, sent cards and even one came to the house to see her for the final time will never forget that or them

13days
13days

@rar113 "I think we were better off back then when medicine wasn't a multi-trillion dollar industry"

I really wish you wouldn't say that. We must (and I do) still believe that people are still people, and they do care. Perhaps they are more rushed, but my hope is that they are simply saving more lives than they would have had to in another time.

barbara
barbara

@lah30303, as professionals we can feel empathy and still use our brains and do the job. It's hard for me to imagine letting my emotions rule me to that extent.

SaraBernardo
SaraBernardo

@DogEars the trick is to keep going to doctor after doctor after doctor until one finally listens. i finally got one to really listen to me a few weeks ago after years of complaining about the same problems and knowing it had to be something bigger than just individual symptoms. i'm now on the path to finding the right treatment and am feeling mentally better since someone has finally taken the time to hear my words and really listen to their meaning. I hope you find the same, and that someone is able to help restore your faith in medical professionals- because I promise you, more than just this one doctor actually do care.

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

@Manchie This is, unfortunately, the case.  My sister worked in an ER for years-----so much precludes any personal involvement--it's sad.

sherrybb
sherrybb

@LouiseBleil  good god woman.....please can we have a break from the O bashing ---for just a moment? For the record, not everybody feels as you do, including doctors.

DougCollins
DougCollins

@LouiseBleil I don't understand what you mean...Nevertheless, it's really tacky to inject something as annoying as politics into an otherwise heart warming story. Shame on you for trying to sneak this in.

chandleroct
chandleroct

@Tessa God bless you Tessa for all that you did.

teenaah
teenaah

@Seriously One of my surgeons, upon seeing me sobbing and begging for help, reached over, closed the exam room door, and stated, "why are you so distressed? It's not you. It's about money. It's all about the money".  I was having complications from his surgery on my shoulder (later requiring two extensive revisions) and kept returning to see him and tell him. I LIVE with 24/7 pain in that shoulder. Thank God he moved back to NY! I hope he doesn't hurt another as he did me. The second surgeon stated, "I've never seen anything like this". Too much autonomy, not enough accountability.

Jpritch23
Jpritch23

@Seriously I think that goes for all medical professionals--doctors,nurses, medical assistants, CNA, etc.  I believe that anyone that works outside the medical field has absolutely no idea the "burden" the medical professional carries.  I personally do not know any medical professional that is in it for the money---and I've been involved in the field for over 20 years now.  

amylovely1
amylovely1

@Seriously  "I don't know a single doctor who is doing it for the money,"  yes, emergency room doctors may not be doing it for the money, but how about the dermatologists? 

Call me cynical.


RDaneelOlivaw
RDaneelOlivaw

@thatdamnliberal  well, true and false, in my case. My "writing" as in cursive has always been essentially illegible, even to me. As soon as I left High School, I switched to printing (or typing) everything, and after seeing other physicians crappy writing, took extra care in medical school and later to make sure that what I wrote is perfectly legible. The only thing that is utterly illegible is my signature, but I maintain that the standard for signatures should be distinctiveness, not legibility.

plg
plg

@QUAKEPC  you have no idea what you're talking about,   there is no shorthand or secret writing  

JasonSimpson1
JasonSimpson1

@Proud Dad  Ummm...  a certified nurse practitioner (CNP) is NOT an oncologist.  I know, because I have cancer and I was lied to by a CNP who told me she was an oncologist.  An oncologist is an EXPERT on cancer and has a medical degree (M.D.) followed by 4 years of residency training in oncology.  CNPs work alongside MDs in cancer clinics, but they are NOT oncologists.  Please tell your daughter to stop pretending to be something that she is not.

indigoblue322
indigoblue322

@Proud Dad

Lovely comment, Dad.  It did my heart good to read it.  If this was my daughter, I would be beyond proud of her, too.  You have obviously done an excellent job raising such a compassionate, caring, intelligent woman.  I'll bet she is just as proud of you.  I wish I could pat you on the back.  Thank you for helping to nuture such a kind and loving person.  The world needs more people like her, and more parents like you.

indigoblue322
indigoblue322

@brimley

My most sincere condolences on the loss of your amazing wife, brimley.  I am so very sorry.

olivert5
olivert5

@DougCollins @LouiseBleil  Good for you Doug and believe it or not people such as Louisebleil with be the main individuals using Obamacare. We will soon find how successful this act is once it's called The affordable care act. 

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

@DougCollins @LouiseBleil Whether you like it or not-----politics are going to be in everything from now on---Obie's gift to America.  It's the reality of life.

DRR
DRR

@CharlesRahn "Obummercare"?  You are too old to talk this way.  At least change your picture if you insist on sounding like a child.

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