Thursday, June 15, 2006

Full Circle

Well, this is it. Tomorrow is my last day of my third year of medical school. In some ways, it's been a one way trajectory out of the bright and shiny world of the layperson into the deep, dark underbelly of a physician's work (oh the sights! oh the smells! oh the blood and guts! ... ok, I exaggerate. a little.) But in other ways, I've come full circle: last June, as the undergrads fled New Haven, to be replaced by the frappuchino slurping, gum snapping gaggles of high school campers; and my reliable puke orange bike replaced my car as primary mode of transportation (yes, puke can be orange--I distinctly remember getting sick on one of my preteen birthdays and puking up a fountain of foamy orange from the push-pop I had just eaten)...uh, where was I? oh right, full circle--so just as last year at this time I started off my third year on the 10th and 11th floors of the hospital bringing new babies into this world and then not seeing them again because as an ob/gyn I was only in charge of the mothers: I spent every morning of this last week of my third year back up on those very same floors, this time finishing the story of birth, giving newly born babies their first physicals, giving newly minted moms the first of many of what pediatricians call 'anticipatory guidance'--encouraging them to use the carseat correctly, to put baby to sleep on his/her back, etc.--and then sending them on their way off to the bright blue yonder world of life. Ahhh. Life truly is beautiful, especially when people are healthy and happy. Before I wax so nostalgic I need to use Q-tips to undo myself, here are a few highlights/memorable moments/memorable patients of this past year on the wards:

Ob/Gyn: Bringing five new humans into the world with my own two hands, and not dropping any of them!

Psych: Witnessing a true psychotic episode up close and personal, Jesus impersonating and all. And getting to know two very special siblings, whose unfortunate external circumstances may already have wrought irreversible damage on their tenderly developing minds and hearts. And the guy with the letters F-U-C-K Y-O-U-! tattooed across his knuckles.

Ambulatory: The 55-year-old woman whose inexplicable muscle pains could best be explained by her only relevant past medical history--bilateral silicone breast implants.

Medicine: Holding my patient's living heart in my hands for 20 minutes while the CT surgeons fit it with new coronary artery piping--and then visiting the rest of him as he recovered and eventually went home. And my most memorable patient, a very complex man with only half a nose who was hated by many a nurse, but who gave me the sweetest gift and card when I said goodbye. He was the first patient to write "To Rachel, My Doctor". I was touched more than he'll ever know.

Neurology: Doing my first spinal tap, clearly not very adeptly, on possibly the most dangerous type of patient in this situation; one with suspected mad cow disease!

Surgery: The rich emerald hue of a healthy gallbladder, the mesmerizing undulations of live bowel--the beauty of the inside of a human. And suturing my first skin incision. And feeling proud of myself for participating so actively in a complicated and interested case...only to find out that while the surgery was successful, the patient died the next day.

Pediatrics: Catching C-section babies in my arms. Caring for the littlest live humans on the planet. Helping a 400-pound teenager realize that if he just stopped drinking those 64 oz. of Hawaiian Punch every day, and did nothing else different, he could automatically consume almost 1000 fewer calories every day, and lose 2 pounds a week!

What a long, strange trip it's been. I've stuck my hands and fingers places no normal person would ever do to a stranger, asked questions no normal person would rightfully answer to a stranger, and felt more connected and compassionate to patients than I ever thought I'd feel toward a stranger. And, of course, my own personal life has continued to be strange, unpredictable, and wonderful. On to the next adventure!


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