The final stitch placed
Surgical clamps released
A kidney turns pink.
* * *
He was right. Nothing compares.
The first time I partook in a baby’s resuscitation was during my fourth year of medical school. It was a disaster: the wall-suction malfunctioned, the nursing staff were in the precarious business of changing shifts, and all algorithms flew out of the window.
I vowed optimistically that when I was a doctor, I would not let a baby die that way.
I had a lot of criticisms, which is so easy for a student to do; but I did learn from it. I learned to prepare myself mentally for any scenario where a life may need to be saved, so that I could give that life a fighting chance.
Last night it was my turn. I was called to the ward for a desaturating baby with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP). It was my call to start bag-mask ventilation, and then to start compressions when his heart rate dropped below 60.
“The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Why do we do what we do – choose a career in science, in business, or in the arts? Why do we procreate, and why do we sometimes choose not to? Is it that we are avoiding the inevitability of life – death – or are we actively working to meet it with our highest expectations?
During his mid-thirties, Paul Kalanithi is faced with a life-changing cancer diagnosis.
He is a neurosurgery resident with a unique grasp on literature and the philosophy of mortality – which in part, contributed to his career choice.
So as a means of addressing his diagnosis, Kalanithi explores his journey towards becoming a neurosurgeon, and reflects deeply upon the sacrifices that were made in his endeavours. And he writes When Breath Becomes Air, a stunning memoir that can be widely read. Continue reading “Review: When Breath Becomes Air”
As I grow older, I learn that there will always be more dates to remember. I am good with dates, but these are the dark kind. The ones I wish did not exist. I know that one day there will be so many that I cannot remember them all, and that many people will be collectively memorialised on Christmas and New Years’ days.
But some dates will never be added to the collective. Some dates will always stick out as especially sad, especially dark. Continue reading “1 September: Seven Years Later”
Today will be my fourth day of rural Family Medicine. I do not know what awaits me, but while I treat patients and learn as much as I possibly can, I will also be thinking of one beautiful green-eyed girl who is laid to rest today.
I met Thembi in 2007. We were attending a local Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. She was wonderful. So kind and humble. Everyone fell in love with her. She went on to make a massive success wherever she went, as an Allan Grey Orbis Foundation fellow and a South Africa-Washington International Program Delegate.
But while on holiday in Mozambique, her life was cut short. I cannot believe that it was “her time” or that it was “meant to happen”. Thembi was one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. She was supposed to become a parliamentarian or Finance Minister or President. She was going to make it big. She was going to change the world. But in truth, she had already changed so many of our worlds.
I cannot be at her funeral today. But I will not forget her.
We were on holiday when the news about Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela broke late Thursday evening. With little to no internet, WordPress was not an option (if you don’t blog it, did it really happen?), but the past few days have been a period of introspection for the whole of South Africa. It has been years since I tried my hand at writing verse. It follows below.
Do not read this if you have not yet watched up to and including Grey’s Anatomy S10E02. There will be spoilers. And emotions. If you are new to my blog (thank you for reading, and welcome) – yes, I do watch Grey’s Anatomy, and yes, I know a lot of it is entirely inaccurate; and no, my work is nothing like theirs, except maybe on dermatology.
Last week with Top Ten Tuesdays we discussed the best light and fun books. Recall that it was really difficult for me. I did find some really nice suggestions on some blogs (there are light books out that that don’t feature love and bunnies! Who woulda thunk it?), but today we discuss books addressing tough subjects, and naturally this is more up my alley. I have learned that I need to learn to be a little more upbeat or risk scaring people away, but there is space in the world for serious matters. Here are my suggestions:
The thing about Facebook is that it keeps you in contact with people who otherwise may long have been forgotten. My parents and grandparents had to work a lot harder to keep in touch with their school friends – for us, it’s the click of a button. My parents may only have heard of the passing of a classmate at their high school reunion. I discovered it on Facebook.
Is it the dying season? I have never been on a rotation where quite so many people die. I am told that Internal Medicine “is just like that” – but it’s wasn’t like that last year.
It feels sometimes that we are playing at being doctors. Take some bloods, give oxygen, intubate if necessary. But it seems that those who were going to die will die in anyway. I have never been a fatalist, but these days I have my moments.