Med: Words That Stick With You Forever

April 14, 2008

It’s happened to all of us. Someone says something to you, and you know immediately that you will NEVER forget those words, who said them, and why they said them.

I had one of those moments the other day while visiting my grandfather at the hospital. Without going into specifics about his condition, let me just say that it’s a rather difficult situation that still has a lot of unknowns–it’s pretty serious.

At the end of the visit, I went to hug him goodbye. As I did this, he held my hand and said to me:

“Study hard so you can make me better, ok?”

I could have just started crying right then and there–and I surely did so later. Sometimes when we’re spending all of our time in libraries learning obscure facts about the human body, it can be easy to forget just how intense some of the moments in this profession are going to be. We don’t just learn these things so that we can jump through another hoop and pass another test; rather, we learn them because in the not-so-distant future, peoples’ lives are literally going to depend on it.

It’s a strange thing being a first-year medical student. Because I don’t come from a family of doctors, I have suddenly become the person receiving calls from family members asking for clarification on grandpa’s condition: “Why did they take his adrenal gland, too?”    “Does the appendix really not have a use?”    “Why couldn’t they use a smaller incision?”     “What makes the lymph nodes important?”

Some of the questions I can answer just fine, or a least steer them in the right direction. But when my grandpa told me to study hard so that I could make him better, I felt completely helpless. I have no idea what’s going to make him better. I’m not even sure if anything can make him better. I’m 3 weeks away from being a second-year medical student, and I still don’t know a damn thing.

It’s rather humbling. And petrifying.

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