When I did a physical exam on a refugee patient a few weeks ago, I discovered an abnormality. I arranged some investigations. The patient was distraught, and no amount of discussion could calm her. The imaging confirmed a suspicious lesion, and a biopsy was organized. It came back benign.

She came in for the results this week. When I gave her the good news, she began to sob. She briefly buried her head in her husband's shoulder, and then pulled out her cell phone and made a series of calls. All the while, via the interpreter, she asked me repeatedly to confirm that she didn't have cancer.

Then the thanking began. Profuse thanksgiving, to me. The interpreter could hardly keep up with the flood of appreciation. The gratitude made me uncomfortable, and I tried in vain to deflect it. At one point the patient uttered the first English phrase I've heard from her: "I love you." They finally left, clasping my hand on the way out.

When I came back from lunch, there was a package of chocolate pastries on my desk.

What I really should do is to store up this appreciation, undeserved though it is, and dole it back to myself to salve my wounds when next time, as the messenger, I get shot.