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The stress of being an ER doctor is legendary, but some of the rewards are priceless.  Here are a few of my favorite memories:

Endearing Thank You Card

Simply transcribing this note (from a 12-year-old patient) would not have done it justice. So, here's a copy of it (her signature is obscured by digital pixelation):

Made my heart melt!

Surprise Dinner For Two

One of the best meals in my life . . . and certainly the best meal I've eaten in an emergency room!

Everyone has had certain experiences in life that are cherished memories; this is one of mine. The hospital in which I worked is a teaching hospital, meaning that we trained physicians, nurses, and paramedics. Annette was enrolled in the paramedic program. I would often have the paramedic students follow me around so they could get involved in interactions with patients, and so that I could teach them.

On her first day in the ER, which was very busy, Annette accompanied me on my rounds. After a few hours, I made a comment about wishing that I could eat, which I could not do because the ER was too busy to allow me to go to the cafeteria. Annette then disappeared for several minutes. Walking into my office, I was astounded! The lights were off, and the room was illuminated by a flashlight that Annette had directed at the ceiling to simulate a candle. One of the tables in the room had been cleared off, covered with a makeshift tablecloth. Annette had china, silverware, napkins, salt and pepper shakers, and a smorgasbord of food covering the table. She also had a red rose placed in a vase that she had improvised from the ER paraphernalia. Music played softly in the background. Gulp. I was so taken by what Annette had done, I probably would have asked her to marry me, if she were older.

Strange Beginning to a Blind Date

I wouldn't term this one of my favorite memories because I was somewhat embarrassed by it, but I'll mention it anyway since it was a dramatic show of gratitude.  Here's the scenario:  I met a woman on a blind date, and within a few seconds of meeting her she was kneeling on the ground kissing my hands.  I asked her why she was doing that, and she said because "your hands have saved the lives of so many people."  That's true, but I couldn't figure out why she was so grateful — after all, I'd never saved her life.  Even stranger was the fact that she is an attorney . . . a lawyer kissing a doctor's hands, eminently grateful for what they'd done . . . isn't that unusual behavior for a lawyer?  They're usually just blaming doctors because we can't keep everyone alive forever, and we can't always patch up Humpty Dumpty to his former state.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

A few days later the grateful attorney and I drove to my mother's home, and I noticed two girls around the age of ten suspiciously frozen in a field.  I knew something was amiss, so I stopped my car and ran over to them.  It turned out that one of the girls was petrified of wasps, and she had a wasp on her scalp.  The attorney triumphantly announced that I was an ER doctor, and that I would help them.  As soon as the attorney said that, the wasp flew off — perhaps he understood English and didn't want to mess with an ER doc?  :-)

The attorney was very impressed by how I'd "rescued" the girl.  In my mind, I did what any responsible adult would do, and the wasp was probably frightened more by the fact that she was an attorney than I was a doctor.  Kidding aside, I thought it was no big deal, but my date raved on and on about it.  I suppose this goes to show that some people are still grateful for what doctors do, even when we don't do very much.

Gifts & Just Having Fun

  • A person whose life I once saved later sent me a pack of Life Savers® with a note thanking me.  That was sweet, and apropos.

  • Soon after beginning a shift, I was told I had a phone call from a patient that I'd recently seen.  “Dr. Pezzi, when you get home, I have a little present waiting for you on your porch.”  The caller, Mr. C., was one of the nicest people I've ever met in my life.  An immigrant to this country, he was living proof that the route to success is hard work and determination, not a welfare check or a government subsidy.

    At that time Mr. C. and I lived in the same neighborhood, and he knew the location of my home.  When I arrived home in the morning, several large boxes were waiting for me.  Opening them, I found a glass-topped patio table with a parasol, four padded patio chairs, an outdoor thermometer, and an outdoor ashtray.  To put it mildly, I was stunned.  What a pleasant — and totally unexpected — surprise!  I was ebullient, but I wondered what it was I'd done to deserve such kindness.  At the hospital the next day I asked Betty, who was a real sage and someone I respected immensely.  “Well, Dr. Pezzi, it's obvious that he thinks very highly of you.”

    Years have passed since then, and every time I see the furniture I think of what Betty said, and I think of Mr. C.'s benevolence.  It was truly touching.  Kindness begets kindness, and I'm sure that at least a little bit of Mr. C.'s kindness rubbed off on me.  With the cynicism engendered by a decade of ER work, it's true that no one will ever confuse me with Mother Theresa, but I'm trying.

    A couple of years before I received the mountain of presents on my front porch, he gave me another surprise.  Mr. C. owned a car dealership, and he had two of his employees bring me a gleaming luxury car with a full tank of gas.  I was told to keep it as long as I wanted, and then call them to pick it up.  I was bowled over by his kindness, but filled with a strange uneasiness.  How long do I keep the car?  I'd recently purchased my first new car since becoming a fully licensed doctor, and I didn't need another car.  His generosity was moving, but my primary concern was showing gratitude without appearing unduly possessive of something that wasn't mine.  Ya think I think too much?  Two days seemed too little, and may have suggested that I didn't like the car.  A month seemed too much, so I kept it for two weeks before calling them to pick it up.  Two employees appeared as before, and the still-gleaming car headed north.

    A parenthetical comment:  Nothing would stick to that car's finish.  This wasn't wax (I've used dozens of waxes on a variety of vehicles, and never found anything that was nearly as effective as this in completely repelling dirt).  I've heard that auto manufacturers are working on paint coatings that repel all dirt and water spots.  Perhaps such a coating was on my "two-week" car.

  • Although I truly appreciated receiving such an expensive and useful gift as the patio furniture mentioned above, I've been given simple presents which were equally touching.  Homemade jelly, bread, cake, pie, candy, and other delicacies were veritable treasures.  I still exchange Christmas cards with some former patients, and that warms my heart, too.  Others have sent me e-mail, thanking me and giving an update on their progress.  Some have sent letters, all of which I still have and cherish.  One young lady gave me a Pez® candy dispenser and some Pez® candy; considering my name, it was a great gift!

  • Life's simple pleasures are the best.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't count the beginning of a shift in the ER as one of my favorite memories, but I've had some wonderful experiences at those times.  Occasionally, a nurse would grab me and give me a big, warm hug.  Or they might just say, in a relieved tone of voice, “Oh, good, Dr. Pezzi is here.”  Either way, it made me feel welcome and appreciated.  It was a great feeling.

  • “Dr. Pezzi, we have a patient here with hives.”  Glancing at the patient that the nurse was calling my attention to, I immediately recognized that it was more than hives.  Amy's face was swollen, and I determined that her ability to breathe was in serious jeopardy.  I helped Amy onto a stretcher, and I ordered the usual medical treatment for this condition.  Still, I worried that it may be too late for this, and that I might have to either intubate her (place a tube into her windpipe) or even establish a surgical airway.  The latter procedure is what lay people often refer to as a tracheostomy; in reality, this procedure is rarely done.  Instead, we do an operation termed a cricothyrotomy, in which we make an opening just below the voice box, through which a tube is inserted that bypasses the swollen, obstructed airway above.

    Amy, who was about 20, was a waitress at a restaurant in a town about ten miles south of the city in which the ER was located.  Coincidentally, I lived in the same town, and I'd been to that restaurant, which was known for its good food.  On a break, Amy ate some fish to which she was highly allergic.

    While I stood by Amy, I had the nurse prepare the equipment I'd need if the medicine didn't act soon.  After several anxious minutes, it was clear that she was responding to the treatment, and there was no need for more aggressive intervention.  I then admitted her to the hospital for observation, since the effects of the medicine sometimes wear off, resulting in a recrudescence of the original problem.

    After she was admitted, I went to visit her to see how she was doing.  When I walked into her room, I wondered if I was in the correct room.  The patient was slim, and the last time I'd seen Amy, she looked quite bloated.  Sure enough, it was her, obviously much better.  I spent some time chatting with Amy and her fiancé, then I went back to the ER.

    A few years later, I was with my Mom at a restaurant.  When the time came to pay the bill, the waitress would not accept my credit card.  I began wondering what snafu my credit card company had created, then the waitress said, “Your bill has been taken care of.”  I was bewildered by this, since I hadn't yet paid the bill, but she once again assured me, “Don't worry, it's already been paid.”  I looked across the room, and there was Amy, smiling.

  • I was taking the history on an elderly man when a 3-year-old boy stepped into the cubicle.  I'd seen his Mom earlier, and we were awaiting the results of her urinalysis.  A cute, precocious youngster with a devilishly appealing charm, he smiled while impatiently tapping his right foot on the ground and said, “Hey, Doc, what's taking so long?”  Hmm, good question, I thought.  It had been quite a while, so I decided to check on the result, and have a little fun at the same time.  Stepping out of the cubicle, I told him what to say to the nurse.

    With all the confidence and adroitness of a polished Hollywood star, he boldly strode toward the nurse.  Crossing his arms over his chest, he leaned back slightly and looked straight into her eyes, saying, “Nurse, we need the results of the urinalysis, stat!”  Awaiting her reply, which was undoubtedly delayed by a good deal of surprise, he once more resumed tapping his foot, accompanied by a mischievous grin.  The nurse slowly looked over at me with an incredulous look on her face, and we all burst out laughing.

Kind Comments From Patients

"I want to thank you for helping us, Dr. Pezzi. I have never seen a doctor so interested and dedicated in a long, long time." (Signed, A.H.)

"Dr. Pezzi is a doll; he's so nice." (Telephone survey of an ER patient, G.S.) A letter that she subsequently sent stated, "You are such a sweet and kind, considerate man. I thank you again for being there (Thank God) and being so nice."

(Telephone call from Mrs. A., received by administration.) "Dr. Pezzi was the physician on duty, and Mrs. A. indicated that he was extremely caring and considerate in the treatment of Michele. Mrs. A. was impressed with Dr. Pezzi's efficiency in treating so many people at one time and his low-keyed manner in such a hectic atmosphere."

(Telephone call from Mrs. W., received by administration.) "She called to say how wonderful a doctor Dr. Pezzi was. That she hadn't felt good in months and thanks to Dr. Pezzi she feels much better and will never go to another hospital again. She also stated that if Dr. Pezzi ever moved, she wanted him to send her a card and say where he is going. She said she'll go wherever he goes because he is now her doctor for life."

(Note from M.B., R.N.) "Recently I was in the local grocery store when a woman there noticed my badge. She asked if I worked there and I told her yes. She proceeded to tell me that her husband was a cardiac patient here recently and that he had the most wonderful doctor, his name Dr. Pezzi. She went on to explain how he took the time to explain everything to her and her husband. She also said that he was one of the most caring and thoughtful doctors that she had ever met. She told me we should feel very lucky to have such a wonderful doctor on staff here."

(Telephone call received by administration.) "Michael M. would like to compliment Dr. Pezzi. He thought he was an excellent doctor all the way around—everything from suture repair to pleasant personality. Stated it was the best suture job he ever had."

(Telephone call received by administration.) "To Dr. Pezzi and ER staff:  Kevin M. called regarding Susan M. (wife) from last night.  Sends his blessings and thanks all of you for the wonderful care his wife received.  He states that he rates our ER as the best ever, and to keep up the good work.  His wife is feeling "GREAT."

(Letter from T.F.) "You are an extraordinary man and Doctor, and we feel fortunate to have met you. Remind your patients how lucky they are to have you as their Doc, because THEY ARE." (emphasis not added)

(Letter from R.B.) "I was seen in your ER . . . The attending physician was a Dr. Pezzi. He listened to what my symptoms were and looked at some x-rays that I had brought with me from an IVP that I had done the day before at Michigan Diagnostic. After looking at the x-rays he said that I had a kidney stone in my lower left ureter and it had probably dropped into my bladder. I thought this was amazing because the Dr. at Michigan Diagnostic, a Dr. G., and my own urologist Dr. S. had both missed this stone even though I also told them that whenever I had pains they were always on the lower left side and groin area. Dr. G. even wrote in his report and I quote, "Left kidney and ureter are normal." But Dr. Pezzi was able to find this. In closing I would like to once again thank Dr. Pezzi for being so careful in reading those x-rays and to say what an asset he is for [this] hospital."

"On September 21st, my son's 8th birthday, I brought him to ER to have his lower eyelid sewn up. I wanted to thank you all, especially Dr. Pezzi, for your patience and the great job done on his eye. I have been in the ER quite a few times at various hospitals but this was the first time I was impressed with the staff's performance. Thank you so much for being so understanding when my son was not cooperative at all. Thank you Dr. Pezzi for the wonderful job you did. Larry's eyelid has healed very nicely and it looks good." (Signed, D.M.)

"I would like to express my thanks to you for what I guess you could say your bedside manners. You made me feel very comfortable and were very helpful. Along with this you seemed to make my daughter feel at ease with being in a frightening place to her. I would hope that if I have to return (in a way I would like to), that you would be the doctor that I would get. Again, thank you for the caring that you gave." (Signed, P.W.)

"Thank you again for the care you gave [my daughter] Catherine. I know you are probably told this all the time, but you are one wonderful person and we are very appreciative." (Signed, K.&C.B.)

"My experience with emergency rooms has been, at times, somewhat disappointing when waiting a period of time to see an overworked ER physician who is lacking in either time or interest or both. I cannot express how relieved (and surprised) I was by my visit. I was most especially impressed with the attending physician, Dr. Kevin Pezzi. I have never before experienced such an unhurried manner in an ER physician, and the accompanying feeling for me, as a patient, that he was genuinely interested and concerned in my problem. Furthermore, he was able to immediately diagnose and successfully treat a condition for which my own physician had not done the same. I have on very few occasions felt the trust and confidence in any physician after so little time that Dr. Pezzi immediately instilled. Though my experience with Dr. Pezzi was limited and very brief, I would recommend him most favorably at any opportunity. My only regret is that he is, as an ER physician, not available in private practice, because he would most certainly be my regular physician if he were. I hope that you appreciate Dr. Pezzi . . ." (Signed, A.L.)

Organize your garage beautifully.

If you want a beautiful garage that is easy to keep organized, see the GarageScapes web site:  www.GarageScapes.com.

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You know that writer's block you get when you sit down to write the essay portion of your personal profile for online dating? And you know the difficulty you have trying to think of a catchy headline? Well, MyProfileWriter allows you to create a profile essay and headline without typing, just by clicking!

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