Patient stories from real people

Patient stories: How you can learn from them

Patient stories
Image courtesy of: National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)

Patient stories shared here are from real people. As a practicing Internal Medicine physician working in ICU, I take care of patients with multiple medical problems on a daily basis. Every patient is a unique person. Each person carries a unique set of life experiences that shapes how that person feels and behaves under stress. Even two patients with the exact same diagnosis have two completely different patient stories. No two patients feel the pain of heart attack the exact same way. No two patients react to the same pain pill the same way.

In medical schools, students are taught about the typical symptoms of a patient with a certain disease. They are told to recognize the pattern of the patient stories and compare them with the known pattern found in the textbooks. The problem with this approach is that there are not many typical text book patients with textbook patient stories in real life. Every patient has a unique voice and a unique story.

To overcome this shortfall, medical students are required to complete a residency training before they can work independently. In residency, the doctors mostly learn from working with the real patients.They also write down the patient stories of all the patients they see. These patient stories become important part of the medical records. In some cases, they become so fascinated with some of their patient stories that they rewrite them in interesting and informative way and submit to medical journals. Some of those stories become popular and are used as teaching materials in medical journals and medical conferences everywhere.

Patient stories: the cornerstone of the new and better way to think about symptoms and diagnosis

I believe that every patient has a very unique and compelling story. We can all learn from them and enhance our diagnostic skills. I want to bring this approach to teaching about symptoms and diagnosis from the medical journals into the real world. You do not have to be a doctor to learn from these patient stories. Knowing about symptoms, diagnosis and disease will help everyone. My goal is to to let my readers understand that the symptoms of a disease can not just be just summarized in a list of few medical terms.They need to be told just like the real patient would experience them. The symptoms belong to the patients and are as unique as the personality of that unique individual having those symptoms. You need to be able to see the human being and relate to that person before you start to analyze the symptoms.

To protect the privacy of my patients, I have changed the names, actual occupation, actual age and other personal information about the patients. I have attempted to tell personal patient stories without using personal details. I will know I have succeeded if you can feel the pain, suffering and anxiety of my patients while reading their stories. Please do not forget to post your questions or comments about these stories. Please post all comments in the book project page. I will try to answer those when I am not busy seeing actual patients in the hospital.

To explore these real patient stories, browse by symptoms and diagnosis below:

[pagelist child_of="current"]