Dr. Marco Deplano
Dr. Marco Deplano is a 37-year-old urology surgeon based in Cagliari, which is on the Italian island of Sardinia. He graduated from the University of Cagliari and graduated in 2010. He had been working at the hospital since completing his schooling. He had worked with plenty of patients during his career, but there was one patient who touched him more than the rest.
An Ordinary Day
Mr. Marco’s day started out like every other day. He was working in the urology department when he received a call from another department. This happened often, so he headed over to see the other doctor for a consult. The other doctor needed advice about a patient who was suffering from terminal cancer, and her kidneys were failing.
The woman he went to see was around 80-years-old, and she was very pale. She had carrot-colored hair that was only a couple of inches long. He noticed that despite her weary appearance, her nails were pink and perfectly manicured. Dr. Marco examined the woman and then took a look at her file.
When Dr. Marco looked at the woman’s scans, he discovered that her kidneys were failing because her ureters were compressed. The ureters are tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder to expel urine from the body when you pee. They play an essential role in your body function, and this woman’s ureters were blocked entirely. There was no way for her to expel her body’s waste.
The Treatment Plan
Dr. Marco told the woman that he would need to insert a catheter to help expel her urine. He told the woman that he would insert a small tube to help her urinate correctly. He told her that she would need a procedure called a nephrostomy. This procedure would create an opening in the skin that leads to the kidneys. The tube would bypass the ureters, and the urine would pass through the tube and into a bag. Dr. Marco explained to the woman that it a safe and routine procedure, but there is a risk of infection and hemorrhage.
While Dr. Marco was explaining the procedure, she interrupted him. She asked him if she would also need a tube in her rear, and the doctor said yes. That is when the conversation took a turn. She smiled at Dr. Marco, called him by name, and asked if he could spare a couple of minutes so that he could understand how she felt. Dr. Marco was impressed by the woman’s warm nature, and he granted her wish. He asked her what was on her mind, and what she said shocked him. Later, he said that she gave him one of the most touching life lessons.
The Woman’s Story
The woman told Dr. Marco that she had died 15 years ago. The doctor was confused at first, but then she explained what she meant. Fifteen years earlier, her son died from a heart attack. She said that the day he died, she died as well. She told Dr. Marco that when she was diagnosed with cancer ten years earlier, she died again. She told him that she had been living with heartbreak for all these years, but now, with her kidneys failing, it was the last straw. She said that she knew that she was dying, and it was a relief. She didn’t have to pretend for others anymore. She told Dr. Marco that her children and grandchildren were all grown up and doing well. She was ready to reunite with the son that she lost 15 years ago. This was when she told Dr. Marco that she had made a decision.
The woman told Dr. Marco that if she had the choice between peeing in a bag and being in pain, or dying with dignity, she would choose the latter. After a dying 80-year-old was told to pee in a bag, her doctor discovered the devastating truth. She asked the doctor if he would be offended if she chose not to fight. The doctor explained the procedure to the woman one more time, and she chose to forgo treatment. Instead, she wanted to go home and eat ice cream with her grandson and live out the rest of her days surrounded by family.
An Insightful Patient
Dr. Marco says that he was moved to tears by his patient, which doesn’t often happen. He knows how to distance his personal feelings, but in this case, he found it impossible. He found this woman to be brave and strong-willed.
When Dr. Marco went home, he posted the woman’s story on Facebook. He didn’t use any names; he just described the situation and how it touched him so deeply. The post quickly went viral, and it was shared over 100,000 times. It received over 156,000 reactions and over 2,800 comments. It seemed that the woman’s story had touched many people the way it touched Dr. Marco.