A woman brought a pack of papers to me. They were folded nicely. Obviously fragile, I carefully unfolded them. The creases were worn and delicate. The legal size paper had shades of pale yellow and white contrasting against each other. Her tidy handwriting stood out against the background of the paper. Every line had an entry. The year and the date were listed first and went back in chronological order. Seven pages of entry over time.
She had listed every test, procedure and medical appointment she had. To the side she made some small notations as to the outcome. It was quite impressive. I wondered if I could recall every appointment and the outcome for the past seven to ten years. I smiled to myself at her fastidiousness and pondered what I should do with the information. She had brought it to me in response to our facility asking for her immunization record.
I put it on my desk, not quite knowing what to do with the information. I was enthralled by it. It made me smile and brought a little joy as I looked at it. I had something so carefully crafted by someone. She had entrusted me with information about her life gathered over time. It was her journey through healthcare. It was her diary or journal in a sense.
I realized how important and precious it was. She had carried it on her way to see her obstetrician and her cardiologist. Her trials and struggles to maintain her health were documented. The little “ok” stenciled beside tests gave my heart hope. As she aged she kept trying to keep the health she had. Then she had come to us. Letting go of her journal was letting go of some of her control. Some of her independence had gone and it is such a rare commodity.
I picked up the papers and had them copied to put in her chart. It was better than any request for medical records could ever give me. I needed to give it back to her. She had let me see a glimpse of her path, but it belonged to her. Her life belongs to her. As much delight as it gives me to see someone work to save what they love, it’s for her to manage. I owe it to her to give her what she needs to make the most of it. Give her the control back of keeping track.
We all have mementos of journey through life. This is hers. I gave it back, hoping she has the strength to continue documenting and that she will make an entry saying that she is back at home.by