Magazine article Medical Economics

The Ring That Changed My Patient's Life

Magazine article Medical Economics

The Ring That Changed My Patient's Life

Article excerpt

In parting with a cherished possession, the author gave an elderly man-and herselfa special gift.

met Ross Tuttle about five years ago, when I joined a semirural practice in upstate New York: He had lived in the area for most of his life with Jane, his wife of almost 50 years.

The 70-something World War II veteran had been forced to slow the pace of his previously active retirement owing to increasing shortness of breath. His congestive heart failure, stable for years, had worsened, and despite treatment he was uncomfortable much of the time.

As he shuttled between our office and his local cardiology group, months passed without any improvement.

His questions-such as "Will I ever get better?"-indicated he was losing both patience and hope. I, too, was frustrated at my inability to assist him. For a time, he was in my office weekly with swollen ankles and a sad face.

At one visit, he seemed particularly upset. "What's wrong?" I asked, bracing for a shock

He looked down at his left hand and said, "My wedding ring. I lost it when Jane and I stopped near a ravine on our way to the Adirondacks. I stumbled and fell toward the creek. I grabbed onto some brush to break the fall, and my ring was gone. We must have looked for it for hours. Ah, it was no use. It's gone"

I looked at his large, empty ring finger, and remembered the gold, braided wedding band that had belonged to my own husband, who'd died four years earlier

Al was a rabbi, and we often joked about his nickname, "Big Al, God's pal:' We'd begun our 11year marriage when I was 30 and he was 60. Al had been ill many years with colon cancer, but faced each crisis with strength and a love of life that enabled him to survive long past the expectations of his doctors.

Thinking quickly-and without giving him a reason-I asked Ross if he would come back to the office that afternoon. At lunch, I went home and retrieved Al's ring from my dresser. …

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