New Year; New Life

New Year; New Life


“True kindness presupposes the faculty of

imagining as one’s own the sufferings and joys of others.”

-Andre Gide


I met her a little over six years ago. My nurse of many years retired. I faced the prospect of training a new employee on the numerous tasks that I had grown used to delegating. Add to that the complicated nature of the illnesses that I treat; dozens of potentially toxic medicines; lab tests that almost never gave a final answer; outcomes that weren’t always positive. Transferring thousands of pages of medical records to an electronic medium. Moving to a new office. Late in the year, with the holidays looming in the background. I complained to my wife.

What am I going to do?

“I know someone at my work that may help.”

I interviewed her over dinner at Bristol’s. Right away I noticed several things. Very young; in her early twenties. She looked prepared. She didn’t eat much. Her appearance was immaculate.

Tell me what you do at work.

She worked at an assisted living facility. She supervised more than a dozen employees; all of them older than she was. If anyone was sick, or their car broke down, or had family issues (this happened at least weekly) she had to get on the phone and find a substitute. 24/7; even when she was on vacation. If any of the residents needed a piece of medical equipment, such as a hospital bed, she made sure that insurance would pay; she would order it. She helped my wife to coordinate the medicine schedule for dozens of patients; you can imagine the upheaval when the doctors changed dosages or stopped a medicine. Families and pharmacies had to be notified. Employees were coached. Mistakes cannot happen. She dealt with complaints: from patients; doctors; employees; management. She remained calm through it all. At the same time that she was going to school to finish her RN degree. I forgot to mention: she loved her family and remained close to them.

I think that I have a better situation for you.

Two weeks later I threw her into the fray.

Don’t try to learn everything at once. OK to ask questions. Many. I will take over some of the chores that I’m used to delegating; just ease into it.

By day three the number of questions slowed down to a trickle. By day six I was back to my usual work flow. By week two she began to teach me about the new software. On the second day of 2010 we moved into our new office; without a hitch.

This is the problem of leading a life free of worry. One does not realize that other things are happening in the world. I acquired several grandchildren. Moved my home twice. Published my book. Started my blog. She finished her degree and started on a new one; got married; had two children; moved into a new home.

At the same time that we cared for more than a thousand very sick people. Within a few months of our move to the new office I noticed that when patients called they would not ask for me. They went straight to her. I developed a sense of security from knowing that she was in charge.

By now I don’t ever have to say what I want done. She can either read my mind or I’ve become a predictable old fart. Or both. In six years together she has not had a single bad day; not one. She has the extraordinary capacity of enlightening the life of everyone that she comes in touch with.

The rest of the office staff has made a joke out our relationship. They think that if she says that the sky has turned purple I will see nothing but that color when I step outside.

There may be a bit of truth to that.

For the past few weeks she has not looked the same. It was clear to me that there was too much work; for everyone. The ranks of arthritis specialists are thin; the number of people with autoimmune disease keeps rising. There’s no reasonable expectation that any time in the future there will be less to do.

She asked to talk to me a week ago. She has accepted a new job. Close to home; lots of vacation time; very little stress. Her children will have a chance to see her more.

I’m bleeding inside at the same time that I say that I’m happy for her.

It would be sinful for me to focus on losing her. For six years I have had the privilege of working with the kindest soul that I’ve ever met. Someone who wakes up every morning thinking of what she can do to help. A brilliant, creative, generous person who’s way overdue for a break from our demanding routine.

A few years ago the staff began to refer to themselves as “Paco’s angels.” As true a statement as was ever spoken. I have lived in Heaven for all of this time.

This coming week will be Katie’s last with us. I will not be in mourning. I will be thrilled that she has found the right situation for herself. I will be thankful that I have been touched by her presence; my rough calculation is that she has added ten years to my life expectancy. Soon, when things calm down at the new office, I will have a party for her, to give our patients the opportunity to thank her and wish her well.

She has been a coworker; a protégé; a good listener; a daughter; a life saver for me.

God bless and keep her always.

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This Post Has 11 Comments


    I have only been with her a couple of times,very sweet,attentive,sorry to see her leave!

  2. Betty dehart

    Oh I am so sorry for you, we patients but so happy for Katie and her family. I know she thought of you as much, much more than a boss and her patients as much more than a face.
    Happy New Year and new life to both of you🎉🎉

  3. Cathy

    So very happy for Katie! So sad for you & your office. Katie will be missed. She was always so very kind.

  4. Elinor Stewart

    I will miss Katie. She was always so nice on the phone as well as in person. When I was first diagnosed with lupus I had many questions and Katie was always there for me. I will miss her but I am glad for her and her family. God bless Katie.

  5. Linda Ormsbee

    I have always thought of you and Katie as “the perfect fit”. I have been to many doctors and have never met a more competent, compassionate RN. I am very happy for Katie, but what will I (we) do without her?

  6. Marie White

    Katie, was an assest to your practice. She has a pleasant voice, very accommodating and always there for the patient.

  7. Sue Pacheco

    Katie is truly an amazing person. In order to be an excellent RN, you must first be a compassionate, caring, unselfish, bright individual–Katie is all of those things and more. She will truly be missed. I want to wish her much happiness and good luck in her new job.

  8. Cordell Webb

    Katie is the best. Always made me feel at ease and had time to listen to me. You are losing one of your angels for sure. Sure hope I get a invite to the party.

  9. Katie A

    Words elude me right now. I am eternally grateful for the experience and life lessons that have been taught to me during my time with you, Dr Garriga. You have exceeded my expectations of a great physician, not only in your knowledge but in your ability to see the good in everyone. You read people, especially me, and know how they’re feeling sometimes even before they do themselves. You hear the unspoken need and fulfill it. You inspire people to be great. I have also been fortunate enough to work with several great nurses during this incredible journey. Phyllis was the first great nurse from whom I learned so much during my first years as a nurse. I admired her sense of humor, her wit, and her ability to calm a stressful situation. I will forever be indebted to her not only for her knowledge and friendship but also for introducing me to you. Then there are the patients, oh the patients. So many of them I have laughed with and cried with. They have become my family. I will never forget them. Each and every patient has taught me something. Thanks for the memories! Love and prayers always.

  10. DeeNa Adair

    At a time when I was so afraid and uncertain about what was going on with my body there was one physician who somehow delivered news of malady with a sense that with him all was going to be well. Like every heroic figure, Dr. Garriga has his side kick that is just as heroic. She too had the ability to calm my concerns about whatever my body was doing. Hearing of many people who have passed from lupus through a close friend of mine who is a lupus activist, this unpredictable disease leaves me uneasy whenever my body is doing something new and Katie was always there to respond to my questions and concerns on Mychart. Although I have not seen Katie the last two times I have been in the office, I will miss her and wish her well in all she encounters. Dr. Garriga please send her my thanks for being an exceptional caring RN.

  11. Gail Roberts

    I knew immediately in whose honor this post was written.  I wish Katie the best in the future for herself and her family.  She is a true professional. Gail Roberts