Why I Paed

il_fullxfull.1060268322_b3xh_1b44cb32-38e5-43f0-83cd-e66691807124_grandeWhenever I talk about my love for child health, and my intention to pursue it as a career, I get this kind of response:

“Oh, I could never work with kids. It just breaks my heart to see them suffer!”

I don’t get it.

I mean, maybe I’m a cold-hearted bitch, but I don’t think so.

I hold children down and stick them with needles, because I know it’s necessary to make them better. I scrub burn wounds and I encourage parents to wait outside because I know they’ll cry and/or likely try to assault me for hurting their babies.

I also use topical anaesthetic cream liberally and question IV lines when I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. I’m liberal with analgesia prescriptions because pain is more harmful than useful in a hospital setting.

I see malnourished and abused children, and sometimes I bite my tongue raw to keep my temper.

I’ve told mothers that their children had cancer, and I’ve told them that their kids would be developmentally delayed for the rest of their lives. I’ve told them that their kids will live, but that they will be long-term patients.

(Thankfully rarely) I’ve informed parents that their baby was no longer alive.

* * * 

But I give more high-fives than I give pain.

I get gummy smiles and snotty laughter and the wide-based gait of children waddling around my legs.

I call in the social workers and the dieticians and we (try to) address systems, not just lapses in judgment.

I get to pick up a crying infant and feel it relax, because although human contact isn’t medicine, sometimes it’s just what you need in that moment. Both of you.

I get to discharge more patients than I ever have to declare demised.

When I tell a parent that their child is disabled, I get to tell them about disabled people who don’t only live, but THRIVE.

I get to admit a shocked child, and see her running around the ward two days later.

I get to witness the purity of the human spirit first-hand.

I tread among the future.

Paediatrics is the great success-story of 20th century medicine, and I rarely cry for it.

* * * 

Adult medicine? Oh I couldn’t. I’d cry all day.


  1. Glad you’ve found something you love! My brother is a pediatric oncologist, and it nearly broke me to spend a day at work with him when I shadowed him as a medical student. I cried pretty much all day. I’m one of those people who could never deal with the hard stuff in pediatrics, but I can generally cope with it pretty well in adult medicine.

    Good thing the world has a variety of people who like to do different things.

  2. Lwazi says:

    So proud of you for finding your place and speciality in Medicine. I think I want to do Paeds, too. But something with Surgery in It too. Paediatric Surgery perhaps? Thank god I still have time to decide.
    Ps you’re definitely in the best part of the country for Paeds, I plan on moving there as well when I start my Paediatric training.

  3. luciepalka says:

    That’s very touching. When my son was born and in the hospital for 10 days, my husband I were very grateful to the amazing Dr.’s and nurses that helped him. Thank you for what you do!

  4. Cara says:

    Congratulations on finding your calling. The voice of the little ones, what a blessing and a joy! Is topical anesthesia readily available? In The Bahamas it isn’t and during my Paeds rotation, it was something I wish we had available just for the kids.

  5. ackeldatter says:

    Love that, and love you, Mariechen! And lucky are the patients and their families who call you their doctor. Yes, very lucky!!!! ❤

  6. I just love this!!!!! Made my day thank you! I’m a receptionist in peds so I agree with everything 😍

  7. Zein says:

    I am starting paeds residency in a month.. couldnt articulate my motives any better. Wish me luck💕

  8. Greetings

    I really need advices and suggestions

    I’m a 26 year old South African guy. I studied Biomedical Technology. I completed National diploma, B Tech degree (Cum Laude) and Master of Health Science degree (Cum Laude). I have 5 publications so far and I like research very much and I don’t intend to stop doing research. I am doing doctorate/PhD, but I decided to deregister within a month so that I can focus on medicine from 2018 academic year. Writing this post, I have been accepted for medicine at the university of the Free State and at the university of Pretoria. I have also been shortlisted at the Stellenbosch university for an interview on the 20 September. I did apply for the GEMP program at Wits and I’m writing the WAPT on the 15 September.

    Taking my qualifications and research passion into consideration, which university will be optimum to study at? In any of these universities, will I be allowed to study both PhD and medicine concurrently? Except Wits, not that I mind, I just want to know if I’m going to start from first year? I wish to study in a university that will enable me to pursue and most importantly grow and develop in research while studying medicine. I’m a passionate person and I’m willing to learn. I need all the help and advices I can get. Please advice and give suggestions.

    Thanks in advance,
    NT Mthakathi

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Hi Ntsane,
      I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you.
      I’m afraid I don’t have hard and fast answers for you. You sound like an incredible candidate, and I think that many medical schools will want you in their programs, especially because of your love for research.
      I don’t know which one is best for research, although I think it’s probably among UCT, Stellenbosch, and Wits. I also don’t know which universities will allow you to do a PhD at the same time – but I think it is a question you should ask them!
      I suspect that for most of the schools except Wits, you will probably start in first year. You might get some credits and some classes off though.
      How did your interview and your exam go?
      I wish you the best – please let me know where you end up choosing!

      1. Ntsane Trevor Mthakathi says:

        Greetings again,
        The interview at the Stellenbosch university (20th September) was great. It was interesting and honestly very fair. I did very well, in fact, I got admitted into their MBChB programme two hours after the interview. Stellenbosch university is very effective! It’s a good university to study at, not to mention that they also have the undergraduate research programme for med students, which is a fantastic initiative.

        Wits…I wrote the WAPT on the 15th September. I got the results around mid October. I passed it, the email doesn’t say much, just that “you met the minimum requirements for the test”. I got admitted on the 15th December, that’s when I received the acceptance letter.

        So, I decided to study at Wits. I chose Wits for many reasons. However, I deferred my admission to 2019, as I have some issues to sort out this year (yes, you can apply for deferral of admission at Wits if some unforeseen circumstances will disrupt your studies).

        I will resume my medical studies at Wits from 2019 academic year.

      2. barefootmegz says:

        Hi, thanks so much for giving an update about your journey, and congratulations on your admissions! I’m excited for your adventure going forward. If you ever feel like writing a guest post here about your experience, let me know; I am sure that many would benefit from it.

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