Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm Coming Home

As the door opened the look on her face was undeniable. Grief. Pain. the tears rolled down her eyes. She let me into her small dorm room and hugged me. And then she told me that her grandmother was dead.

She was a mess. Her sadness was overwhelming. She sat on her bed in a stupor. And I sat with her. Holding her hand. Not saying a word. Just being.

I sat a few minutes minutes. I sat for hours. At two in the morning I returned to my room and went to bed. I cleared my books and climbed under the covers. And for a moment a worried thought crossed my mind.

I wouldn't be prepared for my exam the next day. The last few hours were supposed to be devoted to studying. Instead life had interrupted. Not my own...but a dear friends.

I sleepily took the exam the next day. One of two exams for the whole semester. And I did terribly.

It was my worst grade in all of college. My one blemish in my perfect medical school application. But it was OK. I really didn't think much of it. Back then I was that kind of person.

As I was rounding this morning in the hospital this memory came back to me. I had just left the room of a patient who was recovering from recent surgery. Although the last few days had been fraught with difficulty...she was finally turning the corner. I had assured her that medically nothing needed to be done. Just time...optimism...and hard work. She replied..."I know Doctor somehow always have a way of making me feel better!".

Now sitting at my computer I am thinking a lot about this interaction. Because strangely...undeniabley...what I have done most for this patient has nothing to do with my medical training. I have not diagnosed any disease nor rendered any life saving treatment. I have delivered basic humanity...kindness..reassuramce. Dare I say love? It feels similar to that late night in the dorm room holding my friend's hand. Telling her that everything would be OK.

This humanity...this something that almost feels like a long lost friend. Before medical school. Before my brain became clouded with algorithms and formulations. I was just a plain human being. Struggling against a cold, lonely world by practicing basic kindness. Delving into the human morass to connect with my fellow man.

But something happened to this humanity. Maybe it was the staunch self preserverance brought on by medical training or the selfishness of young adulthood and building a career and family. I somehow became a shell of the person I used to be.

Or maybe there is something about medicine. When you get paid to be a healer...a supporter of life...maybe you lose the innate drive to connect outside of your professional life. Maybe when you become an expert at being there for people, your generosity is most at risk. After all, generosity is often defined by the absence of obligation.

I once wrote a story about a father who had to go to extraordinary lengths to save his child. In the end his son dies anyway. In conclusion I wrote:

even those who walk on water occasionally find themselves stranded in the middle of the ocean. It was time to grow up. He could either let his sadness drown him or he could learn how to swim. So Derek abandoned his superhuman qualities......

and dove into the murky abyss

As the protagonist in the story maybe I also have to abandon the physician's super human qualities. Maybe it's time that I dove into the murky human abyss and returned to the generosity of spirit that led me on this life path in the first place.

Maybe it's time that I returned to the beginning.

Back to the person I used to be...

I'm coming home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a soon-to-be 3rd year medical student I frequently read your blog entries. You have a very humble nature and deep emotion in your writing. I appreciate it. It's inspiring. Most of what I learn (as your very well know) is what to do by standard of care ... not how it feels.