When I first met Bob, I wondered how this was ever going to work. I had no way to communicate with him; any question I asked him would simply float around in his mind for a while, then leave just as quickly. In the first few weeks, much of the time we spent together was spent in silence, as he quietly moved his hands back and forth in time with the classical music that was always playing softly in the background of his home. It seemed to be the only thing he responded to.
As I learned more about him, I found that he shared many of my interests, as well as many experiences with me. I managed to start engaging him in something resembling a conversation whenever I would visit him. No matter what I said, he always responded with a smile on his face and a laugh. I never once heard him say anything without a smile on his face, even if it didn’t make sense. While I spoke to him, I could see his face lighting up when I’d mention certain things. I started to learn that there was more to communicating with someone than just having a conversation. I would ask him about his childhood, his parents, and where he grew up. While he couldn’t give me answers to any of the questions I asked except for simple yes’s or no’s, I could tell by the look on his face that I began to get through to him, to the point where I think he started to recognize me when I visited week after week. This was something I didn’t think was possible at the beginning of my visits when I would introduce myself in the same way every time I met him.
Over the last few visits, he would stand up and shake my hand when I told him I was leaving, and that’s when I realized that I had managed to make an impact in some way on his day-to-day life. Visiting Bob became the highlight of my week, knowing I could come to a place where every conversation would be like the first one to Bob, seeing his smile and hearing his laugh whenever I mentioned anything at all.
While I wasn’t sure at the beginning of this year whether getting into medicine was the right choice for me, my experience with Bob has made me realize that helping people, and patients in particular, is what I want to devote my life to. If I can make that little bit of a difference in making someone’s day better when they don’t have that much to look forward to, all my efforts will have been worth it. I know Bob won’t be around for much longer, but my time with him has made me see that if I can make someone laugh and smile, while staying inside their apartment all day, lost in memories, then this program really has worked, both for him and for me.