Thursday, August 31, 2006

I can handle it, but can you?

Today we watched a few video clips about what lies ahead in our future as a medical student and as a health care provider. One of the clips showed a young resident who previously bonded with an adorable old man before he goes into a bypass surgery. In the middle of the surgery, the old man's heart stopped beating before the procedure was completed and there was nothing the doctors could do. The resident broke down as she never saw anyone she knew died in front of her. It was heart-breaking, but the more scary thing is when my instructor mentioned that it's still hard even after 20 years of working in the field and seeing it happen everyday, and it's much more scary the first times. The even more daunting aspect of it is that the attending who was operating on the old man and had the old man die in his hands, had to comfort the broken down resident then go up to the family and deliver the bad news that the lovable old man had passed away. Imagine a day like that, in which you're exhausted to the brink of collapsing, have to stay grounded on the emotional roller coaster of life and death, then maybe go home to your family to hear that your spouse had a shitty day, that your kids got bullied at at school, that there's not enough to foot the bills this month. It's a pressure cooker that is bound to blow you up eventually, but other doctors survive because if you ask for a hug from your fellow colleagues, most of them understand to give you one unquestionably as well as give attentive ears to your stories of how your day goes wrong.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What it takes to be a doctor?

I am now perpetually tired, and still operating with hours of sleep I never knew I could operate on. I feel like I'm waiting to collapse one day from lack of sleep and food that I never see coming. My body would just go haywired when I least expect it just to protest nastily to me that I'm not treating it right. I know why my med student friends eat whenver they can - its because it's very true that you never know when the next time you get to eat will be, and if you get to eat you are extremely lucky, because you may not get to eat at all in a day since you are too tired to eat so you have to sleep first, if you have any time at all. And it's amazing how you can still put on a smile and act like everything that is said is actually registering in your brain when it's actually not, and still get away with all that. You may see a med student, all smiling and perky and chatty, and he or she can be on the brink of collapsing from exhaustion and you can never tell.
I have also learned to skim, professionally. I have learned to filter out nitty gritty information instead of being ambitious and trying to memorize everything that's written in the textbook that I haven't seen before.
and I stand corrected. My gut feeling really has never been wrong, and it's only getting better, although sometimes I still don't listen to my gut feelings and it's simply stupid.
And I don't even know why I'm writing this when I could be napping. I guess this is one thing about being a doctor, we care for other people's health we think we can get away with trashing ours.

Friday, August 18, 2006


First day of orientation...Never thought there'd be so many confidential stories confided to me in a day.
Watched a med student bloopers video clip and it was admirable how much effort was put into this process to make us freshies excited about this school. Saw other people in their white coats with stets around their necks, talking about medicine, interactions with patients, and they reminded me of this feeling what I watch House, of wanting to be excellent at medicine, wanting to be respected by others, wanting to appear trustworhthy of someone's life, the impending feeling of the day in the future when I will walk my first patient out of the hospital, smiles all around, thanks from the heart, reflective of a hopefully brief but deep and touching experience that only happens once in a lifetime. It reminds me why I chose to abandon jobs in finance, which will hire people to move for me, pay for my food, pay me enough to let me afford a much better apartment and actually start a real life instead of being stuck in this surreal existence in school for lord knows how many more years.
This sounds so lame, but being a doctor is indeed a privilege. You enter a part of your patients' lives that they will never share with anyone else, sometimes not even their family, their significant others, etc. You touch their lives during their most vulnerable moments, during stages in which they would not allow others to see them, except for people they would wanna see before they die. Your patients trust you with their lives, and they will tell you secrets they may never tell anyone else. Treating someone is an intense, hand-holding experience in which we change someone's life without even realizing it.
Today I listened to a patient recounting his gory experience of crohn's disease turned colon cancer stage 3. He was sick since he was 18. Now he's 41 and never had a chance to taste life, literally. Of the 25 years or so that he was sick, there was only a short period of 4 years in which he could eat normal food like we do, eat anything he wanted. Apart from that he never knew what its like to be just normal and not sick, not even now when he can only eat soft, non-fibrous food. Those of you who hate vegetables and fruits, be glad you can eat them. You'll miss them when you realize you can't eat them even if you want to. Stories like this serve as a wakeup call that, however ephemeral, makes us realize how much we take things for granted, how lucky we are just to not be sick. Forget all other petty problems like relationship, money, family fights, etc. It also makes you scared of all these diseases and it will make you eat healthily, make you exercise, purely out of fear for death and sickness, which I guess isn't too bad a boost.
I hope you see how blessed you are just to be alive, to be able to eat the egg noodles you love so much, to be able to drive, even though the car doesn't work the way it's supposed to, to have the money to go golfing when you wish, to be able to hold the golf clubs without having to pry your fingers open because your muscles are cramped from dehydration, I hope you will see the world briefly from my naive point of view, in which the future is hopeful and adventurous, full of possibilities and things to be tried and conquered, in which happiness isnt to be found, but it is to be made, simply by reliving the moments when you hug your loved one in your arms, in which you heard the first "I love you" that pulled you from rockbottom, that made life worth living again. If the rich dad says we need to breakaway from the rat race and take control of our financial situation, then why can't we breakaway and take control of our own happiness?