For Hospice Physician, Patient Care Means Walking 'The Path With Them' A doctor who treats terminally ill patients talks with his daughter about caring for people with COVID-19.
NPR logo

For Hospice Physician, Patient Care Means Walking 'The Path With Them'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/883280686/883823763" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
For Hospice Physician, Patient Care Means Walking 'The Path With Them'

For Hospice Physician, Patient Care Means Walking 'The Path With Them'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/883280686/883823763" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Dr. Joseph Kras works in hospice care in St. Louis. He treats a lot of COVID-19 patients and has to be very careful when he goes home. His 18-year-old daughter Sophie has a condition that makes her vulnerable to the virus. They spoke recently about the tough choices the pandemic demands.

JOSEPH KRAS: At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, you got really, really mad at me that I kept going into work to hospice and palliative care.

SOPHIE KRAS: I was mad at you because I felt like you were choosing your work over your family and me. Whenever you talked about your duty as a physician, my mind would just turn that around as, what about your duty as a father? You could save them, but you could end up killing me.

J KRAS: If I should infect somebody in my own family and they should die or get very sick, of course, I'd be guilty forever about that. How do you balance other duties that you have in your life, including, of course, to your own family? And so here's the thing - if I don't do it, who is going to? Is everybody going to step back and not do it? Would I want other physicians to turn their back on you if you were sick? Absolutely not.

S KRAS: So I've always wondered - how do you talk to patients who are dying but, yet, they want to live?

J KRAS: You know, they are owed honesty above all else, and so I give them that. But people need to know that you're going to walk the path with them, wherever that path may be. I had this one patient - her longstanding partner was not allowed to come into the hospital, and she was getting near the end of life. And the last time that this person was going to be talking before she decided to go on the ventilator was to us and not to her partner. And there was just the sense of aloneness that was over the room and me trying to be present because sometimes that's the most and the least that you can do for your patients. But sometimes, you know, that's not enough. I think if you're a good doctor, a lot of your patients take a little chunk out of you every now and then.

S KRAS: If I think about it harder, which I've had a lot of time to do since school stopped, I realize that being a physician is hard. And even though I don't really tell you, I really admire that you go out there and confront these contagious diseases and people who are dying and people who are angry and sad.

J KRAS: There's things sometimes you can't change, and you just do your best. But I got to say one of the things I miss most is giving you a hug. And when this is all over, it's one of the things I want to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Dr. Joseph Kras and his daughter Sophie. Their conversation was recorded with StoryCorps Connect, which allows loved ones to interview each other remotely. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.