Something that always blows me away is the kindness of patients, even in the face of incredible adversity, trauma, addiction, and major obstacles. It happens in every setting I’ve been in.

When I was working in an inpatient pain control team, one of my patients had been in a horrific accident. This patient was severely injured with multiple fractures, and some of the patient’s family members had died. When we met for the first time, the patient was in severe pain and was also feeling pretty out of it due to a boatload of opiates and other medications.

As we talked and attempted to establish a plan of care, the  patient battled through the fog and was courteous, and clearly working hard to focus and work with me. When I left the room the patient called out, “have a nice day.”

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This floored me, and even as I recall this memory many years later, it gives me goose bumps. Think of that — someone who was so badly traumatized still had the capacity to care about me, to wish me well in my day in spite all he was dealing with. It made me feel very small.

I’ve seen it in other places, too. In my current practice in addiction medicine, it’s not uncommon to see a patient in my office who may be homeless. Although this patient may be facing the challenge of many chronic illnesses and the ravaging effect of ongoing heroin use, he or she will still kindly ask me on the way out of my office, “would you like the door open or closed?” or who will pause at the door and say, “thank you for helping me. Please have a great day.”

Each time a patient does something like this, it amazes and reminds me about the enormous human capacity to care about other people. It reminds me that at our core, human beings care about each other.

Jim Anderson, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, DFAAPA, is a physician assistant in Seattle, WA.