The Other Half of the Story
Why do I want to be a doctor? The simplest answer: my mother. She didn’t force me to go into medicine or anything like that. In fact, it was the exact opposite. She pushed me away from medicine and thought I’d make a better lawyer because of how much I argue with her. My mother actually went to medical school in Poland but after I was born she began to struggle in her studies. Later on, however, after my younger sister was born it became too hard so my mother had to forfeit her dreams and we eventually moved to America. I never really knew any of this until I was in high school because she never really liked to talk about it. While I had heard pieces of the story from other people, no one ever told me this in full, and after I found out, I felt a little responsible for taking away my mother’s dream. She could spend hours talking about things I didn’t really care about. But the passion with which she talked about it I guess rubbed off on me a little bit and I started becoming interested in medicine. While this isn’t really why I want to be a doctor, I would be lying if I told you her story did not affect me. I have never really been passionate about anything and I’m probably still not passionate about anything, but to see someone who is so passionate about something and then have it taken away feels wrong. So if she cannot live her dream, I hope that maybe I could live it for her.
My Fifth Chamber
The fifth chamber of the heart is the one hidden away, behind the four everyone can see. They see athletic, they see apathy, they see anger, they see the laziness, but they never see the fifth chamber. It’s hidden away in the dark, away from sight, even my own. But it’s there. That fifth chamber is really who makes me me. It is my lifeline, or maybe it isn’t. After all, I can survive on four, so there is no room for the fifth. It atrophied, and maybe now it’s completely useless, lifeless. So maybe it isn’t what makes me me. Who I am is a person with four chambers, and maybe once I had a fifth, but not anymore. Now, I am surviving on four.
To the Student with all His books in the Garbage
Take them out and start studying. It’s finals week and you do not want to take Bio and Physics again.
Week 13 – The Importance of Narrative Medicine
At the beginning of the Narrative Medicine course, I would have definitely agreed with Johanna Shapiro’s criticisms listed in her article “Medical Humanities and their Discontents: Definitions, Critiques, and Implications”. I didn’t like English in high school and this course seemed to me like a continuation of just that. I often thought to myself that it was such a waste of time to read these dense articles and write weekly blog posts about what I think or how I feel. Now, however, I think I am beginning to understand the importance of this class in relation to our medical studies as well as forming future physicians. The TED talk, the article by Sayantani DasGupta, to a lesser extent, and the essay “Devil’s Bait” by Leslie Jamison illuminate the critical importance of narrative medicine while disassembling the arguments made in Dr. Shapiro’s essay. In the TED talk, Abraham Verghese talks about how there is a lack of connection between the doctors and patients to the point where the patient has been replaced by a computer screen, or as Dr. Verghese puts it, the “iPatient” is being treated very well, but the patient is left alone. In “Devil’s Bait,” Leslie Jamison talks about her experiences with patients suffering from Morgellons disease, in which the patient believes that there is a foreign parasite invading their body even though none can be found. Much like chronic pain, the computer screens and the medical technology does not see or report anything and the patient looks fine, but they clearly suffer from something. However, because the “iPatients” are perfectly fine, doctors jump to the conclusion that the patient must be lying, even though a lot of the time doctors don’t even see the patient as they do rounds in a closed room away from the patient they are discussing. Thus, the doctors diagnose these patients with delusions of parasitosis, or DOP, casting the patient into isolation to deal with very real problems. The Sayantani DasGupta article showed how practices in reflection and writing really helped students see other perspectives and empathize with others. Hence, when students question the importance of this course, claiming it to be a waste of time, I can see now, through reading patient’s experiences, reflection, and writing, that this course helps future doctors treat their patients more fully.
Week 12 – An Odyssey Through a Sea of Sickness
After reading “Whose body is it, anyways?” by, I couldn’t help but think of the famous expression “stuck between a rock and a hard place.” In the Odyssey, as Odysseus is making his way home, he encounters two monsters, Scylla on his left and Charybdis on his right. If he goes too far to the left, the monster will grab the men out of his boat and kill them, but if he goes too far to the right, the whirlpool will destroy the entire ship and kill them all. It is up to Odysseus to sail the boat perfectly in between the two monsters if he wishes to accomplish his goal of making it home and saving his wife and son. The reading this week reminded me of this story because of the struggle the narrator has to face trying to decide if it is better to let the patients decide for themselves or if the doctor should decide for the patient. Much like the path Odysseus must take, the answer is not always clear for doctors. Is it better to save someone’s life, even if it will only be for a short while and it be agonizingly painful until death? Should the patient decide what is best or should the doctor? The answer to these questions seems to be that we need to find that perfect line between the two monsters. Leaning too much to one side or the other will destroy the ship and maybe kill the men in it. As men and women of science with many years of schooling and training, doctors, like captains of ships, believe to know best and believe their decisions to be ultimate and the patient’s opinion to be unimportant, but captain do not always know best nor do they take into account the patients’ needs, killing the patient for the “sake of science”. On the other hand, an unguided ship without any direction will crash. This same dilemma is brought up in the reading with the case of the women with “suspicious” calcifications. “Do you let her go” and risk not removing a cancer at an early and treatable stage? Do you perform another biopsy and nothing appears, further disfiguring the patient? The author suggests a solution in that patients don’t really want the full autonomy, but instead want their freedom and choice to be respected while still having someone else make that decision for them. I do not presume to know the answers to any of these questions or what to do in the scenarios the author brought up in the article. However, going back to the Odyssey, I believe that the captain and the ship are in this odyssey together, for better or for worse, and that if they make it through the two monsters, they do so together, and if not, then it is the captain who assumes responsibility for the ship.