How to Exit a Room: The Legacy We Leave

I had the chance to work with him for only a week, but there was instantly a kindred soul connection, or at the least he was nice enough to tolerate me and guided me through the day-to-day and even get a beer with me – The Attending-er Attending. After 11 years at one place, I guess it’s hard not to leave an imprint, but, if I’ve learned anything with traveling and with being a Physician in general, the harder you work, the deeper the imprint. Throughout the day, I lost track of how many people came to visit – at first it was just 2 boxes of donuts from the Nurse Practitioners in the office, and then it was coffee from his best friend in the Emergency Department, and then it was a special package of his favorite drinks from another Doctor, and then it was the Vice President, and then the Intensive Care Doctor walked him out. There were cards that were signed, there were tears that built up and struggled to stay in, and there was a lull across the entire floor. The exodus of a legendary Pediatrician only deserved so much. I will never forget when I inherited one of his chronic kiddos to discharge the next day… I ran through the MRI reads, the fact that the Meningitis had been cured and that it was a bummer he hadn’t been there himself to send them home; and, I will never forget the way the mom looked at me, as her little wild child rolled around in the bed and said, “Dr. KT saved her life. I’m convinced of it. He sat there in the chair and he just looked at her, not saying anything, for 5 minutes. Then he said he was worried, and He saved her life.”


I remember my first shift with her: we were in the middle of sign out and passing off the torch from the night before when we were summoned to a delivery. I only got to talk to her at these passing moments, we would rant and discuss and learn at the turning of the tide. Commiserating over similarly thunderous ‘black clouds,’ I would often bring back growlers i collected from breweries around Maine and would give them to her so she could go back for her own fun. The stories of her resuscitations and the work she’d done over the last decade were endless, and as she planned to depart the hospital world for a more forgiving clinic schedule, coworker after coworker discussed their plans to follow her as the new doctor for their children. It was mid-June in Central Maine, she handed me the Hospitalist Phone, “Signing out, for the last time.”


It was 2010. It was the funeral of the original Dr. Cabrera. Nervous, somber and a little bit in shellshock, I remember walking up to the tabernacle to give a Eulogy. There were 800 people, I was told, that filled the Church, and a placard had just been placed at the entrance to the cardiac cath lab in the hospital to commemorate his service. I spoke of the times I had worked in his office and of how I will never forget Ms. KI and the way she said, “Your father, he saved my Life.” Many more came up to me after the funeral to say, he had done the same for them.


The legacy that we leave behind as Doctors, as family members and as humans has always been fascinating to me. The way that we affect the lives around us and feel their reciprocal effect, good or bad, echoes in eternity and trickles downstream to affect our day to day decisions, our mentalities and potentially can change our entire future. I often take for granted the steps I take and the possibility that I’ll leave ripples in the sand. It’s hard to really know if we have an effect or if someone else will affect us, until the situation changes and we’re no longer there or they move on. I supposed while I’m above ground, I could ask, but my imagination is hopeful enough. Never forget that some will never forget you, and if you’re lucky, they’ll be better off because of it.

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