They asked me how that encounter had gone, and I could feel my cheeks turn bright red. I was embarrassed that I was not able to connect with my patient.
My medical education has been a long journey to this point — a journey filled with many obstacles and detours resulting in moments of self-reflection and personal growth. One of the most important detours on my journey led to me being relocated to Riverside University Health System (RUHS) for a longitudinal care assignment.
Perhaps the single most awkward conversation that a third-year medical student can have with an attending physician is the one that begins with the attending asking, “So, what medical specialty are you interested in going into?”
I know that being a third-year medical student is like being a transplanted kidney. One starts the day in one body. School is composed of lecture halls and written exams. However, the world has shifted by the end of the day, and shockingly, one’s old body is not present.
“If I don’t get a cigarette right now, I’m going to punch someone,” he said. “Okay, I understand. One second.”
To keep breathing does not mean to go at it alone or to put up a brave front even when it feels as if the world is collapsing. To keep breathing is to always push towards the goal even when it’s hard and even when it doesn’t feel worth because it will be in the end.
I used to daydream that my first patient as a medical student would be a happy, reasonably healthy elderly woman.
Soon, we were jolted to attention by an overhead announcement, “Attention, code blue. Six south. Attention. Code blue. Six south.”
I always thought the goal of medicine was to cure an illness. But, the memory of this little boy continues to remind me what it is like to see the eyes of someone without a future or hope.
His right leg jittered beneath his orange, prison-issued jumpsuit. The manacles across his wrists rattled with the chain connecting them to the cuffs around his ankles.
A half hour passed by before I heard the first trauma announcement overhead. The pager buzzed at the same time and somewhat startled me. I grabbed the on-call phone, pager and shears and quickly walked to the emergency department (ED).
I had just started my third year, and I had already witnessed six patients die. I had never been called a black cloud before this, but it immediately stuck and seemed fitting.