By Dr. J. Jassam
The moment I opened the door, ‘Sarah’ started crying. I had never seen her before, a 25-year-old young woman, skinny, with slightly shabby clothes.
“How can I help you?” I asked Sarah, after she calmed down and stopped crying.
“I have had shortness of breath for a month,” she said in a shivering tone. “I visited two clinics as well as the emergency, and they all said it was anxiety, as if they all spoke to each other.
She continued: “I suffer from anxiety and I am on treatment, but I do not think that what I have is only anxiety—it is different.”
I completed my questions and my clinical examination, which was normal, and told her that I would send her for a chest X-ray.
On my way to and from the printer, I almost landed on anxiety, but I had a lot of thoughts in my head, and maybe a divine inspiration, pushing me toward something else.
“Maybe there is something else other than anxiety,” I mumbled, but I convinced myself that I would see her again after the chest X-ray.
I went back to the room and handed Sarah the X-ray requisition. Her face had some relief, as if she felt that she was finally heard and her fear was being acknowledged.
My divine inspirations were still firing arrows of concerns inside me. I was unable to stop them.
We walked out of the exam room, me ahead of her. I stopped when I reached the middle of the corridor, turned toward her and said: “Sarah, could you please go back to the room?”
I closed the door and said: “Sarah, I don’t know what happened, but I’m not comfortable with our plan. I don’t really know, but I think we have to change it. I either give you a letter to the ER to do a chest CT or I will arrange for it but it would take longer. What would you like to do?”
“Why did you change our plan?” she asked me with great concern.
“I don’t have a specific diagnosis, but I want to cancel some possibilities that started to ring in my head,” I said.
“I’d better go to the ER,” she said.
Until that moment, there was nothing specific in my mind, but pulmonary embolism was one of my fearsome possibilities. I wrote a letter to the ER, in which I explained my concerns and what I hoped would be done for Sarah.
The ER doctor took it seriously and sent Sarah for a chest X-ray and then CT scan.
His first impression was that both tests were normal, and he asked Sarah to go home and he would call her if the radiologist had a different opinion.
The next day, Sarah received a phone call and was asked to return to the ER.
Full of fear and anxiety, Sarah went to the ER, where she received the shocking news that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
After a long path of treatment, and Sarah’s lymphoma was cured, she visited me many times, each time remembering and commenting on how I stood in the middle of the corridor, turned to her and sent her to the ER.
Appeared on the https://www.canadianhealthcarenetwork.ca/great-saves-turn-hall
Feb 25, 2022