The history was concerning. The exam was alarming. Labs were sent; imaging ordered; possible diagnoses, including dire ones, were discussed at length. A hug was offered and accepted, and the patient left with assurances that I would call just as soon as I knew anything.
The next day the radiologist called, which is never good. It wasn’t. Then the labs popped into my inbox. All the information was back. It was time to call the patient.
But I didn’t.
It was late Friday afternoon, and I made the conscious decision to not make the call right then.
Here’s how I looked at it: either the patient got to spend the weekend not knowing, or knowing the worst but not being able to do anything about it for three long days. I elected not to ruin the weekend.
Was I right? Was I wrong? I don’t know. I asked myself how I would feel getting that kind of call late on a Friday, and that’s how I decided. It was my call, for better or worse.
First thing Monday morning I’ll pick up the phone and make the calls to the patient, the surgical oncologist, and do whatever else it’ll take to get the ball rolling. Surgery will likely ensue within days; the surgical oncology group is really good about not making people wait.
But for the moment, I’ll carry the burden of knowledge alone, letting my patient enjoy a beautiful weekend. Well, as much as possible waiting for this kind of news.
What would you have done?