A Doctor’s Story…

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As a doctor I have seen for myself the physical & emotional consequences of drinking. From the drunken fights, fractures, sprains & stitches to alcohol withdrawal & confusion & not forgetting the depression that often accompanies alcohol abuse. There are too many patients to mention for whom alcohol was a direct or indirect cause for their hospital admission but there are only a few who really affected me.

A couple of years ago I treated a young lady who was only in her thirties but when I first saw her I thought was at least sixty. A chronic alcoholic of over ten years she had lived a hard life full of awful events that had ultimately driven her to drink.

She had fallen pregnant young and had a very sensible 15 year old daughter & a loving family at her bedside, who were desperate to see her straighten her life out.

She had liver failure.

When I saw her she was acutely confused & screaming horrendous accusations at nursing staff who were desperately trying to prevent her from hurting herself & administer life saving treatment.

Her kidneys were failing.

What struck me most wasn’t her story or diagnosis, I had sadly heard similar before. But she was my age! She looked older than my mum. & if her outside looked like that, what must her insides look like? She was incredibly petite & her legs & arms were too thin from the years of malnutrition. Her abdomen was enormous, like a pregnant belly but instead full of dangerous ascitic fluid, which we drained. Her yellowey jaundiced skin was stretched tight.

Despite all treatment she sadly died the following day.

Her daughter, who had grown up largely without her but still firmly believed her mum would turn her life around, was distraught. Seeing her family’s reaction to the news deeply upset me. I realised that her death also meant the death of their dream of who she could be. She would never fulfil their expectations & they would live a lifetime of what ifs, disappointment & guilt. What a waste of young life.

Anonymous Doctor, 29, Cheshire