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"I effectively bled to death in my own hospital," said Dr. Rana Awdish.

Dr. Rana Awdish. Photo from Henry Ford Hospital.

In 2008, Awdish was seven months pregnant and just finishing up her fellowship at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. On her last day, however, something suddenly went deeply wrong inside of her. She began to bleed into her abdomen — fast. Her body effectively crashed out. It took more than 26 units of blood products that night just to keep her alive. She would go through organ failure, respirators, even a stroke.


Ultimately, the hospital was able to save her, but unfortunately, not her baby. Later, they'd discover the cause was an undiagnosed ruptured tumor in her liver. Her recovery would take years and five major operations.

"I had to relearn to walk, speak, and do many other things I had taken for granted," said Awdish. She told her story in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Today, Awdish is back at work, but the experience forced her to confront some uncomfortable truths about her job.

Doctors are trained in how to cure patients, but actually being on the opposite side of that relationship revealed something Awdish had never realized: how inadvertently hurtful even an amazing doctor's words could be. Stuck in a hospital bed, Awdish saw how seemingly normal hospital jabber could hide a mess of tiny, unseen emotional barbs.

"We're going to have to find you a new liver," someone said to her. "Unless you want to live here forever."

“You should hold the baby,” another medical staffer said.“I don’t want to be graphic, but after a few days in the morgue, their skin starts to break down, and you won’t be able to anymore, even if you change your mind.”

But in those words, she also saw her own practice as a doctor.

"I overheard a physician describe me as 'trying to die on us.' I was horrified. I was not trying to die on anyone. The description angered me," said Awdish. "Then I cringed. I had said the same thing, often and thoughtlessly, in my training."

She realized that as a doctor, she had focused on getting people healthy. Just keeping people alive was her measure of success. But actually being sick herself brought up waves of emotion.

"I realized when I sort of kept dying in the hospital is that I had all this existential angst," says Awdish. "Can we talk about how I'm dying? You see it. I know you see it. You just coded it. This feels awkward that we're not discussing it."

But at the same time, Awdish realized she had been blind to her own patients confronting similar feelings. "I remember having patients ask me, when they're diagnosed with cancer, 'But how could this have happened?' And as a doctor, I had taken that as an invitation to give them data," says Awdish. "But that's not what they were asking. It was a request for a connection."

The problem, in the end, was that empathy had taken a backseat to everything else.

When Awdish went back to work, she decided to change her entire outlook of what medicine should be.

"My experience changed me. It changed my vision of what I wanted our organization to be, to embody," she explains.

While she had received years of training in how to fight illness — years of breaking disease into digestible parts, memorizing strategies, practicing care — there hadn't been an equivalent training in how to talk to patients. She had just been more or less expected to pick it up as she went.

Awdish began working with an organization called VitalTalk, which helps train physicians in how to communicate with patients.She and a group of like-minded doctors began recruiting improv actors from around Detroit and Pittsburgh to help them rehearse how to have tough, emotional conversations.

Awdish and her colleagues did this for years as a kind of grassroots movement. Today, Henry Ford Hospital has embraced Awdish's culture of empathy.

Awdish is now part of the hospital system's new Department of Physician Communication and Peer Support. Among other things, medical staff at Henry Ford now get access to a suite of talks, apps, workshops, and courses. They might learn how to recognize anxiety or how to connect with a patient's values before prescribing therapies, says Awdish. There are even shadowing programs, where the doctors can get discreet feedback and coaching.

New hires are also taught that everyone, not just doctors, can help people in the healing process. For this, Awdish can draw examples from her own experience.

"Radiology technicians learn what a kindness it was that they stopped trying to awaken my exhausted husband to move him from my bedside for my portable X-ray — instead throwing a lead cover over him and letting him sleep," said Awdish.

Awdish says even the doctors themselves could be benefiting from the changes. Physicians might have to have multiple, very difficult conversations with patients every day. It takes an emotional toll. By equipping doctors with the tools to better connect and communicate with patients, it's helping them too.

As for whether this is working, a pilot study suggested that patients can see a difference. The hospital is now collecting big picture data and plans on publishing it.

There will always be painful moments, but by putting empathy at the heart of medicine — as Awdish and Henry Ford Hospital did — we could potentially build better health system altogether.

Joy

Delivery driver's reaction to snacks left for him shows how a little kindness goes a long way

'Seeing a grown man get so excited about Capri Sun is extra wholesome.'

"Dee" the delivery guy stoked to get some Doritos.

Sometimes the smallest gesture can change someone’s day for the better, especially when that act of kindness lets them know their work is appreciated. Over the last few years, delivery drivers have done a fantastic job keeping people healthy during the pandemic, so Toni Hillison Barnett told News 11 that she and her husband started a tradition of leaving snacks for their drivers on the front porch.

The Barnetts, who live in Louisville, Kentucky, can see the drivers' reactions by recording them on their doorbell cameras. “I live for reactions like this to our snack cart! Thx to all of the delivery drivers out there! We appreciate you!” Toni wrote on an Instagram post.

Recently, one of the Barnetts’ delivery guys, a joyous fellow that we believe is known as Dee, went viral on TikTok because of his positive reaction to receiving some snacks during his deliveries. The snacks are tasty, no doubt. But it’s also wonderful to feel appreciated. After Toni posted the video, it received more than 100,000 views.

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Some people, on the other hand, get creative. I once came across a post on social media where someone claimed their pit bull puppy was actually a silver Labrador. But one woman on TikTok was harboring a secret cat in her rental that had a no pets policy, and either her cat was unaware or he was aware and was simply being a jerk.

My money is on the latter since cats are known to be jerks for no reason. I mean, have you ever left something on the counter for a few minutes? They make it their mission to knock it on the floor. So I fully believe this fluffy little meow box wanted to make his presence known in an effort to rat out his owner.

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He gave great performances in the musical comedy classics, "A Hard Days Night" and "Help!" while holding his own during The Beatles' notoriously anarchic press conferences. After he left the band in 1970, in addition to his musical career, he would produce the 1979 Monty Python classic, "The Life of Brian."

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One woman in Arkansas has taken to spreading kindness through writing letters to strangers. Allison Bond, 25, started writing letters over a year ago during COVID-19 when she couldn't attend school due to her medical condition. Bond has cerebral palsy and is at greater risk for serious illness should she contract the virus. Writing letters was an act of kindness that didn't require a trip out of the house.

Bond began by writing to soldiers and inmates. In fact, the first letter she received back was from a soldier. Bond told 5News, "I have one framed from a soldier. He had all his battle buddies sign it. So I framed it so I could put it up." She's kept every letter she's received.

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