A Story of Compassionate Patient Care
By Chin-Lin Ching, M.D., Director of Palliative Care
I am inspired by Fred McCrumb. M.D., a Highland anesthesiologist, who is one of the most compassionate people I have met. Fred offers to help with epidurals on Highland hospice patients with intractable pelvic pain and he has always done it on his own time. He gives the nurses his cell phone number, comes to the hospital at all hours of the night and weekends, manages the epidurals himself, and never declines when we ask.
One story happened more than five years ago. We were caring for a gynecology/oncology patient with severe pelvic pain. We had tried every narcotic, but she was still crying out. Fred placed an epidural for us. He would round on her after his day in the OR, so it was often late in the evening, and he would talk to her for hours. We knew it was unlikely that she would ever leave the hospital alive.
Fred found out through one of their talks that she enjoyed astronomy. One night, he got permission and arranged for the patient to go on the rooftop of the hospital. He brought in a telescope from home, and with help from the nurses on E5, got the patient in a wheelchair and brought her up to the rooftop to look at the stars with him. She died shortly after that trip. I will never forget this story. It was the first time I had ever seen a physician go out of his way like this in order to make a moment in a patient’s life a little better.
Another instance happened two years ago. We had a hospice patient on E7, a young man with metastatic prostate cancer. His urologist had resected a tumor that had wrapped around the sciatic nerve, so he suffered from severe sciatic pain. We tried nerve blocks, Ketamine, even a Lidocaine drip. His only wish was to go home, so we wanted to try anything to get his pain to a point where he could leave the hospital. After everything else failed, we called Fred. He agreed to try a low dose epidural, so that the patient could still walk.
Fred spent a lot of time getting to know this patient. He spent hours visiting and talking with him. He found out that they had similar interests and hobbies. So Fred, once again, went out of his way to try to arrange a trip with the patient. We coordinated with the patient’s family and with nursing, to get the patient a pass for a scheduled day so Fred could take the patient to his house to show him things related to his hobby. It was the only thing that gave the patient some joy in his last days. It was something both of them looked forward to.
Unfortunately, the patient’s condition declined significantly prior to the planned day, and he could not go. But Fred’s commitment to the man and the amount of time he spent trying to give him some joy in his last days was really inspiring. The nursing staff on E7, and the patient’s family could not say enough about Fred and his commitment to this patient’s care.
Fred is a very humble man. “It is my privilege to care for palliative care patients,” said Fred. “For being chosen as a confidant. For being trusted by them when they are emotionally most vulnerable. It is quite an honor to have that kind of respect.”
There are many physicians at Highland who take patient care to higher levels. I am happy that I am able to share this story about Dr. Fred McCrumb.