Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Medicine Made Me the Person I Am

As someone who went directly from college to medical school, I have spent most of my life in medicine. Medical training morphed all the areas of my life. I have no idea what I would be like if I wasn't a doctor, but I know medicine has made me a stronger, more appreciative person.

Medicine made me stronger. Its 3 a.m. and the baby's heart beat drops into the 60's. It's my patient's third baby. I check her cervix and she's a good 8 cm. The nurses and I give her oxygen and change her position but nothing helps. As the bradycardia approaches 5 minutes the tension in the room begins to rise. I am the doctor. Likely the only one at the hospital, at this hour. It's a tough decision, but this is my call. My pulse starts to rise, but I take a deep breath to calm myself down. I'm bone tired, but that really doesn't matter because I've done this so many times; I know I am strong enough to push through the fatigue, the stress and pressure. I have to be. This team needs be to be a calm, confident leader. As the bradycardia passes 10 minutes, I communicate the seriousness of the situation to the patient but not try not to scare her. We must proceed with an emergency C-section. A chaotic symphony of orders, instruments and bed pushing ensues. A healthy baby is born moments later.

Moments like these have given me some wrinkles and grey hair over the years, but  have also given me nerves of steel.

After surviving residency, two kids and private OB practice not too much scares me. I know that I can tackle most any challenge whether emergency surgery, bodily fluids or board meetings. I am afraid at times, but neither fatigue nor feces make me flinch.

Medicine taught me to appreciate the little things. Life contains so much sadness; too much cancer, drugs abuse and loss. Beauty and miracles abound, but around the next corner you find stupidly ridiculous tragedies. Life in medicine becomes a daily decision not to become jaded. I'm stronger and little rougher around the edges but I refuse to be jaded.

One small way I do this is to purposefully enjoy the happy moments of my day. When I deliver a baby, assuming mom and baby are happy and healthy, I take a moment to soak in the moment. I simply observe the mother's face light up as I place her baby in her arms for the first time. I watch the expressions of astonished love and the happy tears rolling down dad's face. I remind myself that THIS IS WHY I do it. All the late nights,emergency c-section and all the sadness ARE worth it. I get to make a difference in this family's life. I get to play a small but integral part in helping make their family.

This goes to my home as well. I appreciate my own children's health. The little moments of hugs, giggles and homemade cookies are stored away in my memory for safe keeping. Many bedtime stories are missed but the ones I'm there for are cherished.

Medicine made me a scientist. Medicine teaches you to reason. I look to randomized controlled studies to help make decisions for my patients. I follow the standard of care for my specialty. I know my strengths and limitations. I find these principles spilling over into other areas of my life as well. I have consumer reports and google ratings to help decide on appliances or any other purchase. I rarely make a decision without research to back it up. If only there was a published standard of care for parenting toddlers.

As a premed college student, I was nearly bursting with enthusiasm over my chosen profession. I could rarely wait for the point in an introduction when I would get to declare my plans to "be a doctor." But medicine is more than a profession, it's really become a large part of who I am. Medicine has made me a stronger, smarter, better person and I'm thankful for the privilege of being a physician.

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