Working as an EMT for a private medical transport company, I’m not able to revel in the same gorey stories as the majority of my 9-1-1 companions; I belong to a different breed, and as such, some comradery is lost when we come into contact with each other on the rare occasion we bring a patient to the ED–we’re different. There are some benefits to doing what I do while I’m in school, however, the most important being the amount of patient contact hours I log, the ability to interact with them outside of an emergency situation, and see the calmer, more prevalent side of medicine beyond the flashing lights and broken bones. It’s the people I meet that make the difference, and help me answer yes to the question I continually ask myself, “Is this what I want to do with my life.” Frequently, the answer is less obvious and uncertain than divinely intervening as I often hope it will be–often, when I close my eyes, I find myself standing at the base of a mountain, much like the Greek Sisyphus, whom I often have in mind.
The task of pursuing medicine by becoming a physician is daunting to say the least: finishing my undergraduate degree with a competitive GPA, adequately studying for my MCAT so that I have the best chance possible of earning a competetive score, the interview process when applying for medical school–and that’s just for getting in. Then comes four years of rigorous training and school work, learning to become a critical decision maker, countless exams, hours of memorization and retention of terms, deciding my course of study, entering a residential program, a fellowship, and being happy with my decision all along the way; the mountain is daunting and large, filled with large snags and dangerous drops along the way and I’ll be working without a net. Once I start, I have to finish, and then there’s the eventual descent or whatever comes next…the entire experience is completely overwhelming, and creates the allure of not beginning the journey due to the inherent risk. So here I am, a crossroads, how cliché: to buck up and start the climb, or perpetually stare at the mountain.
In the beginning of his punishment, Sisyphus remembers the life he once had, which makes his time interminable; but as time goes by, and Sisyphus accepts his life as it is, he begins to find variance in the monotony of his climb and descent. A different path up the hill, the feel of grass against his feet, a section of the path that was easier in before–Sisyphus finds happiness in the variability of his life.
My passion for medicine, if I can call it a passion–pursuit is more accurate–began early. My earliest memory is walking home from the bus stop with my dad–I was in second grade and wasn’t allowed to walk home by myself. We had just turned onto our street and were nearing the house when we heard a loud scream, and my dad, a career firefighter/EMT stopped to listen. Not hearing anything after, we continued to walk but heard another scream and my dad took off towards the main road, I stayed in tow, trying to keep up.
A high school girl had tried to cross the main road and was hit by a school bus. By the time we got to her, a crowd had started to form and my dad stepped in. She was still awake and screaming in pain–the bus driver, panicked, had parked, gotten out of the bus to see what happened without realizing that the bus was parked on the girl’s leg, which my dad quickly pointed out as he assessed her. I don’t remember much more about that day; but I remember the crowd, I remember standing in the very front, I remember the blood and bone, and I remember being in awe at what was unfolding before me. That was my dad. He didn’t have tools at his disposal to treat her injuries immediately, but he was there to step in, he was there to take control of the scene, to tell the bus driver to move the bus, to apply pressure to the wound while the medics were on their way, to hold her hand and let her know that someone was there, that she wasn’t alone. That’s what medicine is to me. It isn’t the spectacle of the blood and gore, the hero complex, or the status of being a doctor–it’s the acknowledgement that sometimes bad things happen, and the understanding that we are all the same, and being there to help. Regardless of race, creed, orientation, history, beliefs, or politics, we are all entitled to the same care. It’s the transience of medicine that inspires me to become a doctor. It’s the ability to care for someone in the most basic and pure sense, and being there when they need a hand to hold, while also having the aptitude and drive to offer more when they need it. It’s being able to treat the disease, whiling caring for the patient, and never forgetting that their lives are just as complex as our own, with their own set of problems and sources of pride.
Medicine is my pursuit; and the purpose of this blog is to establish the conviction of my pursuit of medicine–another subject I hope to talk about soon–in writing so that I have something to look back on when the climb becomes too steep or I have to find another way up the mountain; but I will continue the climb. Now that I’ve written this, I realize that the climb will never look as daunting as it does now; and that as I climb, it will get smaller as the summit comes further into view. And so, my climb begins.