Thursday, August 31, 2006


Yesterday's patient was an all-too-familiar scenario. Buried under pressure from a demanding technology job, and working for a company that constantly pushes for higher and higher productivity amid a dwindling workforce, his body had revolted. He'd had anxiety problems in the past, however, the previous few days had been exceedingly difficult. Four attacks over the weekend, one that morning, and one just then. His prescription was still at the pharmacy, waiting to be filled.

This scene was one that I have witnessed many times in my years with the ERT. Employees of this big technology company are pushed to their limits and beyond. Add constant work pressure and long hours to a mentality that is too busy to exercise, eat right or take care of oneself, and the result is a recipe for breakdown. I have experienced this myself twice in the past; once, in my third year of college, and once at my previous company in Toronto. I know what it feels like to break down from stress. It's a horrible experience that I never wish to repeat.

After being evaluated by ERT and the paramedics, yesterday's patient decided he would have his coworker drive him to the hospital. I talked to him a little as he was packing up his laptop, and found out that he had other pressures in his life that were weighing on him as well. He had a psychiatrist, but this doctor simply prescribed medication and sent him out the door.

For this man, it just wasn't enough.

"I need help," he said. "I can't do this alone."

I told him about our company's Employee Assistance Program, and how to find a good, competent counselor to talk to. After all, medicine does not teach a person to set boundaries, to say "no", or to avoid internalizing one's own human limitations as a weakness and a failure. I suggested he look for a good cognitive-behavioral therapist, that could help him break his current patterns, and could serve as a life coach and a listening ear.

I'd given this recommendation to others in the past, and was met with mostly indifference. But this man seemed much more receptive. He knew he needed help, and now, he knows how to find it. Either way, I showed him the door, and it is now his choice to walk through it.

I did nothing to treat this man medically. All I did was talk to him, comfort him, and give him a possible outlet to improve his life. I truly hope he takes that step.

Sometimes, it's not just about medicine.


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