Thursday, August 22, 2013

Easy Life

It can be a passing comment. Or the answer to a question.

But medicine can break your heart, or crack it just a little. And it isn't always the big, dramatic moments. Sometimes a patient says something to me that is such an unbelievably loaded statement, such a deep and unguarded truth about who they are, that I feel both weighed down by it's burden and lifted up by the privilege of hearing it.


"What does her name mean?"

"It means, easy". 

I chuckle a little and smile. The woman speaking to me has perfect, chocolate colored skin. Her hair is wrapped in a regal looking, multicolored scarf. Her cheekbones are high. Her eyes see that I don't understand.

"It means, easy life. My other three children were born in refugee camps in Kenya. She was born in a hospital in Canada. Compared to the rest of us, she will have an easy life." 

Now I understand, but really have no idea.


His right rotator cuff and surrounding musculature was so badly torn one day at work that the orthopedic surgeon stated in his letter that he "abandoned the procedure" when the first repair was attempted. As the patient spoke to me I saw dozens of deep, linear, pale scars on his left forearm, the kind of scars that you get when you cut yourself deep enough to draw blood but not deep enough to bleed to death.

The patient told me about the numbness in his fingertips and the ache in his arm. About the surgical waiting list. I asked if he was right or left handed.

"I am right handed. Well, actually, I was left handed. But I went to a residential school and they forced me to write with my right hand. They didn't use very nice techniques to do so. They wouldn't let anybody be different in any way. Same hair, same clothes. They wouldn't let me use my left hand. So now I am right handed...I have a granddaughter. She is left handed. She gets to stay that way."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blog Readers, I Salute You

This is just an aside. A short note to say that I really appreciated the folks who took time to send comments and emails my way in response to my last post.

It pleases me greatly that people still read this blog (which is...ok maybe not in asystole but certainly a life threatening bradycardia - forgive me, I had to). It also is humbling and thought provoking and reality checking to hear the thoughts of people who have been reading this blog (or who know me / are related to me). I appreciate that I can be (somewhat) candid and honest. Which is what I would want if I was reading story of someone who was chasing a dream.

I think that too often we get to the goal and the story is over. Happily ever after. But really, everyone knows, deep down inside that this isn't true. My mother reminds me that what doesn't kill you makes you piss on your shoes and that the people who got their dream residencies in their dream specialties are pissing on their shoes for many reasons as well.

So thank you all, for your thoughts and notes and perspectives and wisdom. I had intended to end the blog after graduation but it seems there are still people out there who read it, and even enjoy it!  And I think I still have a lot to say about medicine and this journey which continues to unfold in strange and challenging ways.

In a completely unrelated note: today while the pediatrician was listening to the lungs of my 3 year old patient the kid gave his mum a thumbs up. I swear I am laughing as I type this. Even though I am looking forward to my next rotation (anesthetics) I will miss certain things about peds. Though, I will not miss the daily cough in my face routine that occurs.