Clinical Research Mission Moments
The Patient that Taught me to See
Being new to Four Seasons at the time, I was constantly in awe of every opportunity I was given to visit with our patients. This particular patient and particular visit was one that changed my perception and opened my eyes. This patient was a well traveled lady and retired executive having crossed off many buckets on her professional and personal list in life. In more recent years she had been diagnosed with cancer and had been experiencing grave amounts of pain. That was about the time she decided to participate in one of our pain studies to try to alleviate her symptoms and find her “new normal”.
It was right before a holiday when I was out visiting with her and I still remember clearly sitting at her kitchen table and the conversations we had that morning. The saddened look on her face as she explained that she loved her family, but she would rather not spend the holiday with them was heartbreaking. She went on and said because they no longer laughed and had real conversations with her as before, she had decided to stay home, alone, this year. The family’s conversations had become focused on her disease and their pitied looks made her uncomfortable. She explained to me further that she intended to volunteer for the holiday with strangers that didn’t know her issues, that didn’t know she was sick, so that she could just be her and not some awful disease. That is when I realized that when life becomes defined by an illness, we slowly lose ourselves to the battle and that was something this patient was not going to accept. She said to me that morning, “I’m still alive and I still have something to offer and that’s why I chose to do this study for Four Seasons.” Her words impacted me, my life, my career and to this day every time I go out to see a patient, I always make sure to have conversations around them, ask them questions about their lives and who they are. It is through those conversations, that journey I have learned some fascinating things about people we have the honor of serving and working alongside in Clinical Research. Looking back, years later, I am forever grateful to this fine lady for helping me open my eyes and truly “see.”
What does Dignity have to do with Clinical Research?
Years ago, we had a patient who had enrolled himself in an Opioid Induced Constipation study. He had multiple amputations and suffered severe ongoing pain and discomfort on a daily basis. He was on a large amount of pain medications prescribed to him to try to alleviate his symptoms and put his body at ease. When he elected to participate in the study it was very difficult and embarrassing for him to use the restroom. He described to our team what he had to endure and how it left him feeling afterwards. He had to be carried to the bathroom several times a day, most often without results. This just made the pain worse, physically, mentally and emotionally. We enrolled this patient into the study and he received an almost immediate benefit from the first dose. He was ecstatic! Through participation in our study he was able to get on a regular schedule which helped him to feel better and saved his dignity. He looked forward to my visits and every time I saw him he would thank me profusely. One of our last times together he thanked me again and told me, “This study was a lifesaver. Participating in a clinical research trial allowed me options that traditionally were not available to me; it allowed me to regain my dignity and feel like a human again. I owe the Four Seasons team for not giving up and always thinking about what they could do next to help me and my situation. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”
A Simple Fishing Trip
Sometimes casting a fishing pole in the water is the best gift a person can get and that was certainly true with this story. Years ago, a patient was referred to Four Seasons that was a good candidate to take part in a Clinical Research Trial on managing pain caused by symptoms of cancer. Though skeptical at the time, the patient agreed to be part of a pain study we were offering due to the increasingly severe uncontrolled cancer pain he was experiencing. Now this was a patient who had been a very active individual prior to his cancer diagnosis; he had never let “grass grow under his feet” and was always up for an adventure. Though his illness had taken a toll physically on his body his mind yearned for the excitement he experienced in his earlier days. Though at this point he had difficulty getting dressed or walking to another room and was starting to get a bit down on himself. Once in our care and participating in the study, we worked with him to titrate the dose of his pain medicine to a level that helped his pain but also allowed him to function. He eventually was able to decrease the amount of long acting pain medications taken which improved his mood and helped lessen the confusion he was experiencing as well. About this time is when he shared with our team an item on his Bucket List that had yet to be “checked off”. He wanted nothing more than to go on one last deep-sea fishing trip with his family. It was through perseverance, collaboration with the research and development team and the dedication of our staff to Four Seasons’ values of excellence and resilience that this patient was able to go on that family trip and attain the goal he had been dreaming of, before passing away.