It's 2:00 AM in the Emergency Room at the hospital where I work. It's the middle of another long, stressful and at times, heartbreaking shift. I glance up to see the next patient to be seen in is a 76-year-old woman. I walk into the room with a smile. She is shaky and she has a fever of 101.5 and she's understandably confused; my frail patient has arrived from one of the many nursing homes that are the bread and butter for our resort and retirement community of Southern Florida.
She appears weak with her eyes closed, but nicely dressed in a light purple nightgown. Gently holding her delicate hand is an older gentleman, hunched in the shoulders and small in stature.
“The doctor is here dear," he says, leaning over to my tired and worn out patient.“Greetings" I say, doing my best to be considerate of the situation but also wanting to be bright and friendly, "my name is Dr. Kelly, how can I help you today?"
Knowing this woman is scared and confused, I look to the gentleman at her bedside. Quickly he explained the situation as I examined her. Within moments I was able to access and formulate a working diagnosis and already know the likely disposition.
As I thoughtfully moved around the bed to finish my exam, the gentlemen never once let go of frail woman's hand. Luckily the night in the emergency room had slowed down some, and I wasn't rushed to exit and attend to another patient in need. Finishing up, I gently sat down beside the bed opposite the gentleman.
As an Emergency Room doctor I am chalenged to instill a very high degree of trust with my patients very quickly. They have never met me, but their life, or their loved ones, is in my hands for the near future.
“She is lucky to have someone like you to be with her Sir.” I said calmly. “We have been through quite a bit together.” He said with a hint of confidence. Looking at their clasped hands I noticed the well weathered, slim gold bands on each of their ring fingers. “How long have you been married?” I asked, showing a respectful smile. “forthy-eight years..." my new friends said, glancing back.
“That is…” I started to say, and then the gentlemen interrupted with, “Four months, fifteen days…” He continued, glancing at his watch briefly and then quietly continued, “two hours, fifteen minutes and thirty seconds...” He said trailing off.
I sat silently watching, forgetting the medicine, forgetting all the other patients I had yet to attend to, forgetting the noise in the emergency room lobby or all the things I had to take care of between now and when my shift ended. Instead, I allowed myself the chance to experience something that never shows up on any x-ray or blood test... This kind of observation won't end up in a medical chart, but I, as her doctor, will never forget it.
“I'll make her better Sir, I will, I'll do my very best,” I said with a nod. “I know you will." He replied with a faint, broken smile.
Leaving my aging, tired, frail patient with the loving gentlemen by her side, I found my mind racing with so many thoughts and the last thing was the medicine... I had the unique, special opportunity to be a part of a couple who I am sure had cherished every second of their lives together. That left a mark on my heart I wasn't expecting. I sat in my chair and thought about my own marriage... seven years... eight months... four days...two hours... twenty minutes and 10 seconds...
The Anniversary Clock was born.
US Patent Pending