I had my first run-in with a former patient today. Before I begin, I should mention that I work at an alcohol/drug detox and treatment facility.
A few weeks ago we were treating an adolescent girl for heroin overdose. She was an emancipated minor, working as a cook at a local fast-food joint, trying to get her GED. I remember hearing my preceptor telling her that she had to be careful of the "kitchen culture", in which drugs flow freely at dead-end jobs, and recovering addicts routinely find themselves back in the cycle.
Today after clinic we went to lunch, to chat about my (excruciatingly slow) progress with case presentations. We sat down, and as our sandwiches got brought out, I recognized the server as the girl we had helped get clean weeks ago. She immediately did a double-take when she saw us- her face blanched, then quickly flushed, and she walked off unsteadily back to the kitchen. I'd like to think that she's still clean, but that look on her face makes me suspect otherwise.
It surprised me, to say the least. I guess medicine isn't practiced in a void.