by Laura Yeater, MD
I remember going home from one of my best clinic sessions yet and telling my husband how much I loved my job. I remember saying how rewarding it was walking through a journey with a patient and how I was so glad I got to this point. I remember even being so excited that I told my team about it at sign out the following morning still glowing from a day that validated why I chose family medicine.
I got to see multiple patients that afternoon, 2 of whom were 4 month old babies that I had gotten to take care of since the hospital. One whose parents initially were hesitant regarding vaccines but after counseling were open to receive them at this visit without any question. I felt awesome about establishing a relationship where they trusted me enough to follow our recommendations without push back. I saw my oldest patient, a nearly 90 year old gentleman who brightens your day each time he comes into the office. His glee following an improved Hemoglobin A1C made me feel like I was walking on clouds. I met a new patient who had not had medical care in many years and was able to start her journey in establishing a healthy relationship with a primary care doctor. I was able to see a patient who I started medication for anxiety and depression several months prior who told me her life was so much better and she couldn’t imagine living without her meds. I saw a young gentleman who was blossoming following mental health treatment. I had the privilege of sharing the news that a young patient’s Hepatitis C had been cured, a feat she never thought could happen.
The next day I was back on the inpatient medicine service caring for a gentleman who had suffered a cardiac arrest and hypoxic brain injury. I helped his wife make the challenging decision to transition to comfort care and helped to mend some family rifts. It took much of my morning to help coordinate the palliative medications he would need once we removed the machines and to help his family come see him one final time. His daughter who was a preteen at the time came in to say her goodbyes and asked me point blank “why did my dad have to die and my friends dads aren’t dying?”. I remember thinking “Oh my gosh, what do you even say to that, no one prepared me for this.” and likely spitting out some answer about life isn’t fair and how I was sorry and asking if she had more questions. It was one of those moments in medicine that no amount of medical school would prepare you for. A bit of time passed and the family had decided that when we removed the ventilator they did not want to be in the room so we were helping them get out of their PPE and leave the hospital. While the young girl was taking her gown off the code alarm started going off across the hallway and I remember telling her mom to “get her out of the ICU quickly” and running to the other room.
My young 23 year old female patient was coding, no one was sure why, but CPR had been started. I remember the first day I rounded on this particular patient I told my senior resident “man I hope she doesn’t die” which is not something I typically would say but she was so young and I felt connected to her. Ultimately, we were unable to obtain ROSC (return of spontaneous circulation) and she died. I had to call her parents and inform them that their daughter had died unexpectedly. Nothing prepares you, as a provider, to share news like that and hear a family’s response. My senior resident was away at clinic at the time so I was handling this all on my own and it is still, nearly two years later, one of, if not the, hardest days of my career.
Family medicine is an amazing career that is filled with so many joyful moments and so many tragic moments. I feel so privileged that I get to be with patients and their families at the time of birth, death, and every stage in between. Nothing prepares you for the hardest days, but the joyful days where you get to see patients improve and grow makes them worth it.
Dr. Laura Yeater is from Ashland, Ohio. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from Youngstown State University. She then went on to Northeast Ohio Medical University, in Rootstown, Ohio, as a part of their 6 year combined BS/MD program. Her medical interests include rural medicine, palliative care and hospice, full spectrum family medicine with obstetrics, and community impact and outreach. Outside of medicine Laura loves to travel, try new foods and restaurants, spend time with her husband and family, and play board games. She chose the University of Utah because of an instant connection she felt during her interview day. Additionally, she loved the “Intern Fridays” and the opportunity to learn from excellent faculty, residents, and staff about full spectrum family medicine. Lastly, the natural beauty and opportunities in Salt Lake City were just icing on the cake.