Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lessons In Doctoring

{We took the kids to this most amazing amusement park called 'Dutch Wonderland' a few weeks ago. Imagine a clean amusement park geared entirely toward the 3-6 set. Imagine that there are no lines. Imagine no rowdy teenagers walking around and imagine your 3 yo being able to ride 90% of the ride. Sound like heaven? Pretty much. All the ensuing pictures are from there.}

**Tiny was a big fan of the face painting booth. And the lipstick (ahem) that the girl added at the end."

Lonely. Defeated.

Those would be the words that probably best captured my mood in the first few months of medical school. I was an English Major from California suddenly living by herself in a basement apartment back east, surrounded by science textbooks. Fish out of water, much? Being at the beginning of that medical road was probably the hardest for me. Yes, I still had lots of energy and none of the fatigue that can come later, but I could also not conceive of such a path ever ending. It looked interminable from where I stood.

**Luckily our Lil' Drummer did not mind the interminable merry go round rides we took him on.**

And it wasn’t that I didn’t have amazing people around me. My sister lived a short drive away, and I met some of my favorite women in the entire world the first week I moved out.

So why was I lonely? I think I felt lonely in the work I had to do. You know when you’re overwhelmed by a task, but you know it’s no one else’s but yours? Yeah, that’s how I felt.

**Being pronounced 'Lady Tiny'...now that's a lot of responsibility.**

Then soon after school began, I flew out to CA to attend the weekend wedding of a cousin, which was delightful. I didn’t want to go back and face the grind of school again. But I had no choice but to get back on that plane. If only I had known that I had the beginnings of a cold! The congestion hadn’t been enough to catch my attention until I was 30,000 feet above ground, and then—yowza! My ears were in a world of hurt. Even when I landed, my ears wouldn’t pop and the pain wouldn’t stop.

I slept at my sister’s because I was a little freaked out by the pain. Well, I didn’t sleep much.

**A little freaked out by his first ride EVER.**

**Tiny got freaked out on this ride since we were spinning out of control. The ride attendant, who introduced herself beforehand, didn't really play along when Rockstar asked her to reassure Tiny that the ride wouldn't be so bad. Tiny started protesting and calling, "Sarah, Sarah! Stop the ride!" once the whirling madness began.**

Finally I dragged myself into the student health clinic, hoping they would be able to offer some kind of treatment.

I sat on the crinkly white exam table paper with all my pain and frustration buzzing just below the surface.

A female doctor, probably in her 30’s and brunette, entered the room. She sat down and asked me what had brought me in. I told her my story, and then she noticed on my chart that I was a medical student.

**Mama's Boy**

“Oh! I see that you are a medical student?”
She paused, and I think she could see through the fragile shell holding myself together.
“How’s that going?”

The shell cracked and a tear slipped out. Then the crack was a chasm, and I was crying visibly.

“Not very good,” I said. “I’m tired and lonely and it feels like too much.”
She put her hand on my knee and listened.

**Sometimes life pushes us out of our comfort zones. Exhibit A: Tiny's first rollercoaster.**

“I remember that, too,” she said. “The beginning is hard. But you can do this. It will go faster than you think.” I can’t remember what else she said, but I remember how she said it.

So kind.

We didn’t talk more than a few minutes. She gave me a prescription, and I stood up to leave.

The feeling I walked away with has left an indelible mark on my mind and my practice as a physician:

My ears still hurt, but I felt healed.


  1. Anything about your medical stuff I find so interesting. It's funny to look at my physicians now who seem so confident and how far behind them those feelings must be. And the whole being alone in your task is how I felt that way about motherhood after I had my first baby, especially out on the east coast/south, even though I know that medical school would be a LOT scarier and at least I had my husband.

    So, thanks for sharing these things! And that wonderland place looks fun!

  2. super excellent post. Not just a lesson in doctoring, but a lesson in HEALING for all the boys and girls out there.

  3. I love this story. Having a brand new baby it reminds me of every time someone asks how it's going. Of course it's wonderful and joyful but there are parts like losing my toddler's happy disposition, and not knowing how to feel like an attentive mom while managing two kids that gets a tear or two eeked out at the worst times. Someone's kind words can make all the difference.

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  5. Hi Kate! This is Mandy (Atkin) from Alamo. I love your blog. You are such a talented writer and I think your stories are an inspiration!


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