Last week, I wrote about the hardships faced by medical students. Bouquets it garnered aplenty; the brickbats inspired this post.
One discerning reader opined that I am a nasty fascist who is critical of patients for being sick *speechless*. Another observed that my head was stuck up my own arse *weak smile*. Two enterprising dissidents even composed a limerick and haiku in my (dis)honour *chuckles*!
Others concluded that I am arrogant, conceited, self-absorbed, self-congratulatory, pretentious, ignorant, ridiculous and wallowing in self-pity. In return, I offer some personal experience and perspective.
Budding doctors have fun too! We participate in college fests and House marathons. We inflate condoms, entangle nasogastric tubes, administer subcutaneous injections to jacketed books and compose outrageously inventive answers in our exams. We also spend some time doing absolutely nothing.
It’s never enough. Youthful impulses can be satisfied; Youth cannot.
Medical school is a dysfunctional social experiment in which personal boundaries are eliminated. We have stripped, palpated, percussed and auscultated each other. Everyone knows everything about everyone else. I was waylaid in the loo and relieved of a urine sample that was analysed by a third of my batch in a biochemistry practical.
That we emerge (mostly) sane is a minor miracle.
We learn by doing. And making mistakes. Multiple skin punctures for intravenous access. Catheterising the wrong orifice. Sounding a tender spot. It’s tough on patients, but it’s tough on us too.
A test of memory admits us to the course; the course itself is a test of character. Is it okay to pull the chubby cheeks of a nephrotic child? Giggle when an over-atropinised patient challenges you to a duel? Double up with laughter when a woman in labour, fully dilated, stands up and declares she’s going home?
It isn’t what we deal with that makes us awesome. It’s how we deal with it that does.
Because we man (and woman) up. Turn over a new tree. I yam what I yam and it’s not all that I was.
There is nothing theoretical about our occupational exposure to disease. A patient with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis once coughed straight into my face. I’ve been drenched by the amniotic fluid of a dead born baby. Four of my intern seniors are on prophylactic Anti-Retroviral Therapy because they were accidentally pricked by HIV-infected needles.
Despite this, none of us has, or is going to, quit. It is nothing short of heroic, and I refuse to be humble about it.
I will graduate this year. A fresh Chartered Accountant will not be asked to audit a Fortune 500 company. A recent engineer will not be required to protect his country from cyber terrorism. But as a medical intern next year, I may just be called upon to singlehandedly resuscitate a breathless/pulseless patient.
In a world that still values human life above all else, there’s more than just a little pressure to learn how to save one.
‘And yet’, as a reader put it, ‘I would like to live this life’.
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