Boston Med: The Patient-Doctor Connection

"I wanted him to sort of keep that as a reminder of all the people that got together to help him get listed for a heart transplant, and just to help him stay strong mentally during his wait because I knew it was going to be a tough time for him. "

While waiting for a donor heart, Pollet's condition continued to deteriorate. He developed life-threatening complications related to his illness. "I knew things weren't going to turn in the other direction." Parks said.

'We're All Human'

Pollet lost his battle with the disease March 2, 2009. Parks said it was a very difficult loss for her. "When you get to know the person, and you've followed them for months, and you know their families, then you see them at the end of their life, it's a much different experience," she said. "You feel like, Gee, I'm supposed to be this strong physician, I'm supposed to be in charge. But we're all human."

Health care providers know they will have to face unfortunate outcomes, and Parks and her colleagues have been trained to cope with these difficult situations by relying on one another.

Rauch, the child psychiatrist at Mass General, stressed the importance of doctors seeking the support they need. "Over a long career, people learn better and better ways to be connected and also to take care of themselves emotionally so they can stay connected without developing what people sometimes refer to as compassion fatigue."

Two months after Marvin Pollet's death, his wife and her children held a fundraiser in his honor in their home state of Louisiana. Parks believed it's important to attend and show her support for Jeannette and her family.

"It was a very nice way to make something happy out of something sad, to have closure and have it be a positive ending," said Parks. "I see my job as continuing even after a patient is gone. Somehow you feel your presence is still helping Marvin."

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