While there is no way to choose our patients’ outcomes, we can certainly choose to be empathetic and compassionate regardless of their outcomes. Medicine without empathy and compassion is not medicine at all.
Empathy is a muscle you have to exercise just like any other. It is a choice. It’s something you have to study and practice and sometimes fail at and always try again.
While being inundated with information on most things that are normal and abnormal about the human body, it is important to remember that we learn all this information to treat patients, not to treat diseases.
“Procurement tonight” — a text / I’ve been anxiously awaiting with both excitement and dread, / for on transplant service this means / a life must be lost to save another’s.
It was pink / like the flowers he buys his wife. / It was not uniform.
The room kept going in and out of focus. That was why she did not notice him at first. All she could pay attention to was the way her hands and feet kept going cold, hot and then cold again — all happening in step with the alternating blurring and clearing of her vision.
I was called to a code the other day. Now I should probably clarify: as a medical student, I don’t actually do anything (unless they really need people for compressions). In fact, I wasn’t even in the room.
The last year of medical school heralds more than just the end of an era. It brings with it the confidence in a career choice doubted several times just a year ago.
The very first patient I ever met on my internal medicine rotation was someone who hated being in the hospital. He took every opportunity in the following ten days to remind us that he was waiting to be discharged.
In high school, I was obsessed with wearing only vintage clothing. After hours of painstakingly searching every clothing rack at Goodwill, I would find a well-worn baseball jersey or an elaborately bejeweled Christmas sweater. I felt a sense of immense pride in reclaiming someone else’s memories — their winning games, their holiday parties – in an attempt to express my “uniqueness”.
She and I experienced such extremes of strangerhood and intimacy in only 72 hours. But what a privilege it was, to be there for her when she had no one else, to advocate for her, to go a little (or a lot) above and beyond on her behalf, to see the inter-workings of this stranger’s life: this is why I chose medicine.
Little girl / in the pink hospital gown / sits in a windowless room.