I was reminded last night of an interaction I had with a former patient. It left me feeling that I lacked something, or perhaps that I was viewed as part of something was unpleasant.
I had won sports tickets through my hospital and brought along my Dad. Before the event we were given a hearty buffet brunch. There was much fanfare for those of us lucky enough to get into the events tent and the food was good. My dad and I made our heaping plates and sat at a table to eat. My hospital had also sent along a representative. This representative was a former patient.
I cared for this woman during her office appointments. I felt that I had gotten to know her well during her prenatal visits, which was something I hoped to do with all of my patients. However, this woman was a big wig of some department within the hospital and therefore made the office staff nervous. I never felt her presence as overbearing or stiff, and remember thinking that she seemed rather young and relaxed to hold such a position. I didn’t get a chance to see her during her postpartum follow up visit and never saw her again until that day at the game.
When she approached the table she was friendly and warm. My face was towards the plate (not uncommon for those of my genetics) when she approached so I don’t think she saw that I was one of the lucky ticket winners. When I did look up and say hello, I could see the look of recognition in her face. And it didn’t look good.
She tried to pretend she had no idea who I was. She introduced herself to me and my father. I said, “Yes, we’ve met when you were pregnant with you daughter.” I smiled to convey my relaxed demeanor when seeing my patients outside of the office.
“Oh,” she replied stiffly. She was suddenly very uncomfortable and seemed to be a bit upset by my mentioning her pregnancy. There was no one else at the table but my father and I, so I didn’t believe that it was because I mentioned I knew her when she was pregnant. I didn’t mention that I cared for her, so I certainly wasn’t announcing anything involved with her care or violating the precious HIPAA laws.
Normally I would have asked how her baby was doing, what milestones they reached, but her body language said it all. She did not want to talk about anything relating to my connection to her.
I think that some would say that I was taking this all a bit too personally, but I found her response quite odd. Most patients I have cared for that I run into in the outside world seem quite happy to see a caregiver associated with a cherished event in their life. Did something happen during her birth that I was unaware of? Did she feel that we failed her? What was it about me that conjured up bad feelings?
She soon left after our quick conversation. I watched as she purposely avoided the area I sat. And I still wonder what was it that was so bad?