‘I can’t remember the last time I saw a doctor. It’s probably been decades,” said a patient of mine who, for the purposes of protecting patient confidentiality I’ll call Jerry. This fifth generation Mainer came to my office to establish primary care with me earlier this year.
In exploring his medical, family and social histories I began to learn his story. The oldest of five originally from rural Maine, he is a former employee at a local mill and has been out of work the last six months amidst the COVID19 pandemic. With a 40-year history of tobacco and alcohol use, his nagging stomach pain began causing him to have difficulty swallowing. In beginning to work up his medical issues, we identified emphysema and cirrhosis, each a life-threatening illness affecting his lungs and liver, respectively. “It is what it is,” he tells me.
I wonder, though, what could have been