Dan and I mimicked ducklings as we followed our senior resident, Tassia, single file down the stairs on our way back to the resident room. As we neared the bottom, we crossed paths with another medicine resident leading two medical students playing the same roles as Dan and I.
“I used to be an elementary school art teacher in San Francisco.” The more he smiled and the more he spoke, the larger the lump grew in my throat. He wore a grayed t-shirt that matched his unkempt black beard.
The entirety of the third year of medical school is an act. If you want to be a good medical student, you are what your team wants you to be. Amenable, pliant, easygoing — even when inside you are a bitter angry little thing who’s tired of being pushed around.
It was a Wednesday morning. The air was crisp. The sun graced us with brilliance. I made my way to the emergency room where I was working for a two-week period on the cardiology consult service.
I found them for you. / Your blonde little girls who grew into women / Then grew apart from you. / I found them.
I don’t really know why I stayed with you. All I know is that I could not leave.
The day before I was asked to give this speech, sometime mid-May, I was speaking with a first year student. At the time, I was two weeks shy of completing my third year of medical school — the year of school that you spend the most time in the hospital.
To physicians, hospice frequently symbolizes defeat. Referring a patient to hospice care can feel like admitting that disease has defeated years of training. In medical school, we are trained that the role of the doctor is to fight the disease and find the cure.
At 7:21 p.m., I arrive at the hospital for the first overnight shift of my medical career. It’s not a great start — the bus was late, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough this afternoon in preparation for the night ahead.
Yellow does not mean sunshine, nor lemons. / Definitely not daffodils, nor sharp, new Number 2’s. / Yellow means sick. Dirty. Dangerous.
Tears hold onto the ledges of her eyes. As the physician and I approach, a quivering begins. It emerges at the jaw, a flutter running across her lips, only to drop onto her shoulders and envelop her hands.
During the team huddle I was assigned to Room 403, Bed 1. “There is a lot you can learn from this patient. You should see him.” I got the one liner and was off.