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‘Thank You for this Referral!’

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I remember that time in college when people started posting photos of their acknowledgment pages from their theses before graduation to express their gratitude to the people who contributed in their college lives. Fortunately, we did not have to go through the tedious thesis process in Med school and this is also why I did not have the opportunity to thank the many, many people who assisted me in accomplishing my clerkship year.

Family

I need not to expound on this. I would write a much more heartfelt message on graduation day. Know that your greatest contribution in my clerkship year is not the enormous tuition fee, the understanding of my constant sleepy state and my lack of concern of  what on earth is going on at homeРit is your presence that inspires me each day. You have no idea how your hugs transform me into some kind of super woman in an instant.

Prime KL

When I was enrolling for clerkship last year, I did not care much who I was going to work with because I have always believed that it did not matter to me. I always tell peers that we do not get to choose the people we are going to work with when we become residents, consultants, etc. While this fact is still true, I think that after a year of working with this prime, it is still better to have people you can rely on. This is how I felt the whole year. It is impossible to be able to do everything on your own and it just feels reassuring that this family is always ready to assist you, even without any word of request.

We may not miss all those sleepless duties and endless errands because we would still end up doing the same for the rest of our lives, but I will surely miss the time when we are simply hanging around, having fun. I love how different all members of this group are but how similar we are when we work together. I love how we turned out to be really much like brothers and sisters who do not wince a little when we talk about the grossest things. I love how most of us talk about our issues and that we are close enough to criticize each other without getting anyone hurt in the process. I simply love this prime. ūüôā I think that I would have survived clerkship being with another prime but I do not think that it would have been as¬†awesome without you guys in it. You guys will always be my beloved OTP– One True Prime. ‚̧

Senior Clerks, PGIs, Residents and Consultants

It is not a secret that being a physician is a difficult job but I was not able to realize how I have so little knowledge of the job until I worked with actual residents and consultants. Difficult is really an understatement. Whenever I see hate comments against doctors online, I feel sad. If only people would know about how much these people are sacrificing to help their loved ones then they would not have said any of those hurtful words.

I was a little sad when some upperclassmen told me that clerkship is almost all work, no study. What drives me is learning and knowing that there would not be much opportunity to learn the theories made me a little disappointed. However, most residents and consultants really take time off their very busy schedules to teach us and I am very, very thankful for that. Most of them value teaching future physicians. Moreover, these mentors do not only teach us theories and skills. They also teach us so many things that are beyond our text books, they teach us how to build our character as a doctor. While some of us loathe some residents for being strict with attendance, paper works, and monitoring, I feel grateful. Being a physician requires a huge amount of discipline and  time management. I think that there is no better time to learn these things other than clerkship. I do not know what kind of doctor I ought to become but I want all my mentors to know that every single one of them will always be a part of that physician.

Medical Staff

From the nurses, nursing aides, medical technologists, dietitians, pharmacistsРeveryone in the hospital, maraming salamat po!

There were many times that I felt annoyed by the eternal errands but when I think about it, those were opportunities to learn and I am grateful for them. Thank you to all the staff who taught me so many things about how things work in the hospital. I remember that I started as a really clueless clerk who did not even know how the metal patient’s chart work, how to even turn on the IV line, how to operate hospital beds, how to understand residents’ handwriting, how to properly gown myself in the OR, etc. I could only offer thanks to all those staff who patiently taught me without making me feel really small for knowing so little. Thank you for approaching us with respect and understanding us when we really feel very tired.

Patients

Many of us feel hurt whenever patients tell us, “Pinag-aaralan niyo lang kami.” whenever we make mistakes. However, this is the sad truth. We really learn from our patients. This is why I could only offer my gratitude and apology to all the patients that we encountered because all of them gave us a certain amount of trust and patience even when we committed multiple¬†errors.

Madams and Sirs, you may not know what you have done to contribute to our journey into becoming physicians but I really want to thank all of you for your trust in our service. You do not know how much you move us whenever you thank us for a job well done. You unknowingly give us strength and confidence in the craft that we are still starting to learn.

Maybe it’s because I have such a boring life but I consider my clerkship year as the best year of my life so far. I have discovered so many things about myself, learned so much from the best mentors and from various experiences, met so many amazing people– all in a span of 365 days. I would not want to do this year all over again because it sure was exhausting, but it would probably the year I would always look back to and smile. It is the year that showed me why I love this profession and why I would never, ever quit this game.

To everyone about to start the clerkship journey, I can only give you one advice: have courage! A lot of us, myself included, had zero hospital experience that everything felt new and unfamiliar. Everything would stem from a little bit of courage. Do not be afraid to make mistakes but do your best every single time even in the most ‘menial things’ like monitoring. You have no idea how doing everything right and with passion can actually change a patient’s life.

To all my batch mates from Natus Salvare 2017, finally, after our 365th hospital day, we are now ordered ‘May Go Home’ and ‘To Come Back as full-fledged MDs’.

This is Clinical Clerk Ayuyao now dozing– I mean, signing off.

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The Significance of the Hospital’s Tiniest Organism

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We are approaching November which means we are nearing the first half of clerkship. A lot of my co-clerks have been posting a lot of their ‘firsts’. First IV insertion, first NGT insertion, first extraction, first OR, or sometimes sadly, first birthday away from our families. It is an interesting thing– to have the wonders and simple joys of a child over our accomplishments. Some of us feel like stage moms of ourselves who are proud of every baby step we make. And yet after grueling hours of our duty days, we still see patients die despite all our efforts, we still get insulted by superiors, patients and their relatives, nurses, hospital staff– practically everyone, we still get hours of demerits for being human, we still get soaked in all shit possible (literally and figuratively). Clerkship is indeed a funny thing. You do tons of jobs everyday but somehow, you do not feel as purposeful as you thought you would be.

Clinical clerks have a very ambiguous role in the hospital. This is also why we get to have jobs that overlap those of doctors’, nurses’, medtechs’, even maintenance staff’s works. Patients and their relatives usually have no idea what our roles are and would call us random titles, ‘Doc’, ‘Nurse’, ‘Miss/Sir’, ‘Ate/Kuya’, or simply, ‘Hoy’. I personally respond to any name though. I remember this one exhausting Pedia duty and the patient’s Dad personally called me from our space. I thought it was urgent since he took so much effort in looking for me so I felt alarmed and rushed to their room only to be asked whether I knew how to fix the electric fan because the air from it was not reaching his son. I wanted to cry and laugh during that time. It was not because I was annoyed with the Dad. I understood that he really wanted the best for his kid (especially since the baby was his first child). It was not because I was thought to be a maintenance personnel, or because I felt degraded, or because my tiny rest was disturbed, or because I really had no idea how to fix the problem. It was because I felt like an odd teenager who did not seem to fit in. Being a clerk feels like being a double for many, many characters in a movie. But when the credits roll, you are not named as any character, but simply a double. No one really remembered what you did or that you were in the movie at all.

I may sound like I am whining but believe me, I am not. I think that this is the primary rule of clerkship: Do not complain. It sucks to go around the whole hospital doing monitoring for countless times to the point that you hear Korotkoff sounds even while you are sleeping. It sucks that despite reading piles of books and notes for the last three years, your most used phrases are ‘Yes, noted, Doc.’ and ‘Sorry, Doc.’ when you are speaking with residents and consultants. It sucks to be so excited over badass surgical techniques that you have seen in Grey’s Anatomy in the OR only to be told to not scrub in and keep on talking so as not to let the surgeon fall asleep. It sucks to be reminded over and over again how you know nothing. It sucks to be told that well, you simply suck at whatever you are doing. But despite everything, I do not think complaining will make me a better doctor. The work gets tiring, yes. But I always remind myself that what sucks the most is not any of these. What sucks the most is the feeling of being sick and helpless. This alone makes me able to forget my childish thoughts and I am reminded that I am there to help alleviate that worst feeling in the world.

A lot of times, i just sit in one corner and wonder if we are of any loss to the hospital. Honestly, as I have mentioned, everything in our job description is not unique. All of our works can be done by other hospital staff. If we do not exist, someone else can do the histories, physical examinations, monitoring, insertions, extractions, etc. There is not a thing that only a clinical clerk can do. Without us, the staff will have more work to do but it does not necessarily mean that the hospital will collapse. There are many hospitals without clerks anyway. But these five months made me realize what makes a clerk’s role special is not the work itself but the enthusiasm and sincerity in doing it. I am not saying that other hospital staff are doing their jobs half-heartedly, but after working for so long, these things do not excite them any longer. Clerks who do not have much experiences are often more eager to do these things. The feeling of being entrusted tasks makes us more careful with our work. Our works¬†have sincerity. And to me, that is something that we should all be proud of. It is disheartening how a lot of patients would reject our services because of our age and lack of experience. But I really do hope that people would grow to trust us more because our lack of experience is our driving force to make sure that we are always ready to give our best.

I am convinced that I have learned a lot over the last five months and I am still very much excited to learn a whole lot more. I believe that what I know now is not even worth one page of my imaginary book of learning in Medicine. We are writing nothing more than one full sentence of that book. It feels like a long way to go but then all great books are written that way: the first part is always the hardest. It is not because the climax is there or because it is the most complicated part of the story. It is because it creates the ‘make-or-break’ phase. Clerkship to me is like that. It seems like the hardest part to write in our story because we want our readers to feel that hey, we are worth reading. To some, this may just be a part of the rules to become a doctor. But to me, this is the glimpse of what kind of physician we would be. And this is why no matter how microscopic we are compared to the universe of Medicine, we should all want to be the best goddamn organism there is.

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TORQuE #2: Answerless Questions

So after almost two years, I have decided to write TORQUE #2. When I wrote the first one, I was thinking that I would probably be blogging a lot about random stuff popping out of my head and it would be nice to have a ‘segment’ in this blog about these disorganized thoughts. But as we all know, life happened and I barely opened this account at all last year.¬†I remember doing a few attempts though. I think I drafted a few but I failed to finish any of them because none of them made any sense. Anyway, today I decided on a main topic to write about: questions I have no answer for.

While I enjoy conversations, there are some things that make me give a little pause before responding. I usually talk fast but when I am put on the spot with these questions, I simply stop to think about how to answer them and end up with very vague responses. No, I do not get hurt when these are asked but I just do not have satisfactory answers. When I think about it, these are glimpses of personal insecurities that give me a tinge of discomfort not because I feel offended but because I feel a little barer, less confident that I tend to put up obvious defenses.

What do you not know?

I have roughly four days before clerkship begins. Before the short break, I imagined myself getting all busy preparing for this by reading materials necessary. Not surprisingly, I did not even end up attempting to open anything medicine-related. For the past month, all I have been doing was bumming around. I wake up late, watch Korean dramas, fan girl, eat, sleep, browse social networking sites, and sleep. Every single day. Do I regret it? Not exactly. These are things that may seem simple but may be difficult for me to do once I start this year-long journey. However, a part of me screams of some guilt.

Three years inside the classroom is not really a long time no matter how much we whined that we have been¬†studying forever. When I think about the workload and the lessons we’ve had, I wonder how we ever learned all of those things in just three years. To be honest, I do not think we actually learned everything. It’s just physiologically impossible. And this is why I find it difficult to even start to prepare because I have no idea where to begin. When I ask myself this question, I can only answer, ‘a lot.’. This does not mean I learned nothing though. I am pretty sure that I am a lot more knowledgeable than my 22-year old self who just started med school. That’s the funny thing about med school. You do know that you learned but the problem is that we are not just expected to have learned something, we are expected to learn everything– even if it is something way beyond the scope of our training.

I have 0¬†hospital experience. I even have no idea about the simplest hospital protocols. I am prepared to feel insulted and ridiculed. I am willing to learn from scratch though. The problem with me now is that I don’t think I am prepared to hurt another person because I lack the ability. I am the type of person who easily blames herself for the things that I do wrong. This is what I want to prepare for but I had no idea how to do so.

What will you do after med school? When are you ever going to be a doctor?

People often ask us med students about which specialty (and even sub-specialty!) we would be taking up the moment they are told that we attend med school. I understand that these people simply want conversation starters but I also want to tell these people how difficult this question is for us. I personally have an idea but to be honest, I am not that confident to tell everyone about it for the simple reason that we do not know the future. I can tell people that I want to be this kind of doctor but when I end up somewhere else, there would be that awkward feeling that would make them think that 1) you have absolutely no idea what you want, 2) you are not a reliable person because do not do what you say, or 3) you are simply an old liar. Of course, this is just me and my overactive imagination but the thing is, I really do hope people would be more understanding when they ask these things. Choosing a field is never as easy. Nothing can ever fully prepare us for that.

Asking us about how much longer will it take us before we become full-fledged physicians is also not something we can express confidently. Not that we are surely expecting delays or whatever but simply because med school and the life after med school are very unpredictable things. We can explain the whole process that even we are not very sure of because of many complexities and technicalities. Moreover, we do not want more pressure than what we are already experiencing.

Why don’t you go outside more often? Have you ever been to *insert tourist destination*?

I am an absolutely boring person, thank you very much. My free time is simply surfing the net, watching series, fangirling, reading, and writing– stuff people do even when they do not have any free time. Did I choose to be that way? Partly yes, partly no. I have strict parents even if I am not really considered ‘young’ in this society. I grew up being home early and never going beyond Metro Manila. I am that bummer friend who cannot go on trips or even simple dinners without parental permission. I do feel bad about lacking so many fun experiences in my youth that I would probably never experience when I get older and more¬†in control¬†with my life. Do I blame my parents for it? Nope. To be honest, a huge reason why I turn out to be the boring person that I am is because I feel more comfortable this way. My parents actually never told us not to drink out with friends; they said it’s fine as long as I go home sober and safe– and on time, of course. But I have never even gone outside drinking with friends or clubbing for the simple reason that I do not want to and these things do¬†not interest me.¬†I am not the type of person who would do things I do not enjoy just because everyone is doing it. Travelling out-of-town is interesting but I am just not someone who can spend so much with something I did not earn. As I have no salary yet, I feel utmost guilt about asking for everything. Travelling interests me but it is something I want to do when I am capable of doing so.

Why have you not gotten yourself in a relationship?

I do not actually realize that I am an NBSB (No Boyfriend Since Birth) until people actually ask. It is interesting how much people are interested in other people’s relationship histories though, I find it very amusing. Anyway, this is a question I simply do not think has a proper answer. I sometimes throw this question back to the people who ask why I never had a relationship by asking them why they are in a relationship. But then people would not stop at your ‘I just don’t.’ answer. They would go deeper by asking if you ever had crushes or complicated-kind-of-relationships or if I am ever interested in men at all. Haha. What makes it worse for me is when they compliment you and continue to wonder why. I do not particularly think of myself as pretty, I think I look okay but when people tell me that ‘You look fine, you’re a nice person– why don’t you have a boyfriend?’ makes me wonder if there is something wrong with me or if I am too different for anyone.

People are highly engrossed with love lives. To say that I was never curious about having one is a lie. However, I do not feel the pressure of being in a relationship simply because it is not something you look for, I guess? To me, if it is something that God wills, then so be it. If not, then I really don’t mind. I am in that stage in which I do not even think of the person I’ll be if I get married and stuff and this is also why I do not think I am prepared for it. I cannot even take care of myself yet, how can I take care of another person or my future family if I would ever have one? I am not one who wants to do something that I do not see my future self in. I really, really dislike wasting time.

Why are you short when everyone in your family is pretty tall?

This is probably one of the dumbest questions that I hear a lot. I am always tempted to answer, ‘Uhm, genetics, duh.’ So I got bad genes, what now? It is true that one of my complexes is my short stature. It does not help that most of the people asking me are relatives. Being on the short side is a little different from other physical complexes like those who dislike their nose or eyes. Being short¬†makes you unable to do a lot of things (some sports, careers, etc.). It makes me feel a lot better that a lot of my idols (especially Dr. Jose Rizal) shares the same complex. I can write a whole new article about being short and the unique experiences of being one but I wouldn’t do it now. Haha.

¬†I really dislike it when people tell me that ‘You could have been so-on-and-so-forth but you lacked the height.’ This makes me even want to work harder to prove them wrong. I remember reading an essay (Nick Joaquin’s The Anatomy of an Anti-Hero) that a big chunk of the hero’s development into the great person that he was was¬†because of his inferiority complex about his height. Strangely, I was able to relate to that not because I have become a great person (I definitely am not)¬†but because a huge part of me dwells in this complex and how I always want to prove people otherwise. The bottom line is, I just don’t enjoy being asked about what happened that I did not grow as much as my relatives did. I just did not. That’s all.

I appear confident most of the time but I personally think that I am one of the most insecure people I know. I am not ashamed of these insecurities though, they make me the person that I am. Insecurities can be a powerful weapon if used properly. It can make you go beyond expectations but they are also very dangerous. When we fail to recognize our weaknesses, then that is the time we truly become weak people. Knowing my complexes does not make them disappear but at least I don’t think I would totally be caught off-guard. I accept these and all those I have yet to discover about myself wholeheartedly like some annoying relatives and friends that you want to leave during reunions but miss a lot during the times you are apart.

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UN-DREAMING

I would turn 25 in a few weeks. That’s a quarter of a century. This is the part where people say that they are having mid-life crises– which I find hilarious because people are not likely to reach 100 years old so technically, 25 is not the quarter of an ordinary person’s life. Anyway, 25 is the first whole number that can be rounded up to 30 and it is amusing when I think about it like that. When I was younger, I looked up to people in their 30s because I felt that these people are on the right track: they are with shiny credit cards, stable, dream jobs and their own families. Now that I am nearing that age, I can see how this is usually not the what is expected. We were all a lot more optimistic in our childhood and teenage years. We always felt like things will go according to plan and actually, if our plans do become reality without any intervention, a lot of us reached this dream self in our 30s. But of course, that is just simply not the case.

The prefix un- has been quite popular recently. Maybe it’s the effect of many social networking sites that many words are now created and used with it¬†(un-friend, un-tag, un-click, etc). Because I had so much free time, I looked up if¬†one of my favorite words, ‘dream’, also has an un- counterpart. I found out an interesting result: there is no existing word ‘undream’ (Funny how I was even redirected to the word ‘underarm’) but there is a past tense ‘undreamed’ meaning beyond what could be imagined. It’s interesting because if you have a dream, you cannot un-dream that; because if you were able to do so, it takes the form ‘undreamed’ which means something that could not be thought of. ¬†I do not know if I am making any sense right now, I mean it’s 1:45 AM after all. But anyway, this little learning sparked an idea inside my head. What are the things I wished I could un-dream?

DO NOT WORK FOR WEALTH

I have told a lot of people about this: I fear wealth. I fear what it can do to me and the people around me. When I was in grade school, I told my family that I wished money was never invented so that there would be no rich and poor so that everyone would live equally. They laughed and told me I had a Communist’s mind at a very young age which I did not understand back then. To be honest, I still do not understand Communism theories but I do have an idea about it and I am pretty sure I do not share the same views at this point in my life. Although I still believe that passion comes first when it comes to any career, I have come to appreciate that although money surely cannot buy you the joy in your work, it can motivate you to open more opportunities for yourself. If say, you want to be a well-known painter who is known for a certain advocacy, with an empty bank account, these things will never be able to touch reality. I am actually still uncomfortable about it though. I want to be a really good physician but the idea of asking for professional fees is something I cannot freely think of. I feel a strange feeling as if I develop some kind of greed but the more rational side of me would think about my family and how incredibly expensive my education is. The things they sacrificed, the fact that I am their breathing investment– how can I simply disregard all these? The least I can do is to repay these sacrifices (although no amount of ‘paying back’ would ever be enough) and this alone is the reason why I would want to work hard so that I can embrace wealth in the future.

GO TO AFRICA AND FIND THE CURE FOR HIV/AIDS

This is one of the most bizarre things that came out of my mind. I think it started way back in third grade when our Science teacher told us about HIV and how incurable it is. I have been wanting to become a doctor for as long as I can remember (I personally do not recall a moment in my life in which I did not) so this lesson inspired me to become a good doctor and fly to Africa to find the cure for HIV/AIDS. I kept it a secret for some time though. I told my family about it around high school and of course, they disapproved. One, they do not want their precious daughter away for a long time in a foreign country. Two, they think it is not exactly the safest area in the world. Three, they told me that they would not invest so much if that would mean I would have to leave them behind. Four, they told me that Philippines is also a country with poor health conditions, I should serve people here first. I think I got a little mad back then, accusing them of not being supportive of¬†my dreams. But as I got older, I realized how right they were. It would have been better if we were from a very well-off family who can spend so much money in my education and live to volunteer without thinking of how I can survive with my finances. But we are not. Also, they were right about the country having a lot of health issues and that I should be among those who would be left behind for them. There is already a lot of people helping out in HIV/AIDS researches in Africa, they would not urgently need me there. But people here have ‘less complicated’ diseases that I can still help out with. I do feel that I am much more needed here.

HAVE A PIANO PERFORMANCE WITH AN AUDIENCE

This may not be something I have told a lot of people about. Come to think of it, I am not sure if I told this to anyone. I had this fantasy of being onstage playing the piano in front of a crowd. This sounds like a very funny dream for someone who only knows how to play nursery rhymes who never even had a piano set. Well, I did study playing the piano for one summer but since I only practised with a kiddie organ, I never got better. I tried though. I used to download midi files and convert them into sheets but without proper training, I never knew how to do it properly. Later on, my kiddie organ was destroyed by the flood, and I probably never played after that. They say that there should be no age limit when it comes to dreams. If I really, really, really want to, I can convince my parents to buy me an organ, and let me take lessons. But the question is: is it worth it? I do not think that time would be the problem because I believe that we all are able to give time to things that we really value. Like there are times in my life that I am so drained but instead of resting, I would choose to write because I think of it as a very important thing in my life. But would it be the same with playing the piano? I personally do not think so. When I try to recall why I had that fantasy, I really have no significant recollection. I just wanted to, maybe because I thought it looked cool? Maybe because I saw some gifted Promil kid on TV? I honestly do not know. One thing is for sure: I can definitely live without it.

HAVE A YEAR BREAK TO TRAVEL FOR SOUL-SEARCHING BEFORE 30

There was really some point in my life that I thought that traveling to a lot of places for one year would renew me as a person. Maybe it would but at present, I just do not think it is something I desire. Maybe it’s the lack of ‘wanderlust’ in my veins because my family is not really fond of going on trips. I personally want to but because I am unable to, a larger part of me feels that it is not something I badly needed. This little dream is really funny because of many reasons: 1) I would most likely not earn enough to entirely support myself even in my residency, 2) One year is a damn long time for a break to those in the field of medicine (the studying period is insanely long as it is, why use another year?), 3) I do not think I have lost my soul yet so what the hell do I need to look for?, 4) I got homesick when I lived away from home for a month, what more a year? I always rant on Twitter how I feel envious of peers who are able to travel a lot with their own money when I cannot even buy myself anything with something I earned by myself. I am definitely curious about traveling, but it is not something that I would die for. I want to experience it, but it is not something I am inspired to work hard for. Even if I am already breathing gold, I do not think I would get to a point in which I would stop whatever I am doing and just travel for a long period of time. At most, a month would do. If I would go beyond that, I think I would feel guilty of not fulfilling my purpose. But that’s just me and my boring self. I know a lot of people would disagree or would simply think I know nothing about travels. Haha.

As I have said earlier, there is no word for un-dreaming. We cannot simply forget about our dreams. I am not saying I am completely disregarding everything mentioned above, but these are dreams I have to rethink about. Dreams are difficult to understand and are often misinterpreted as Joseph the Dreamer had taught us. There are things that I may have thought to be something I want but I cannot fulfill them because I understood them differently. But what I am sure of is this: each dream is a piece of me that I may or may not be aware of. Un-dreaming does not mean I regret ever thinking about these things; it just means I am taking the same¬†route but with a different destination in mind. Un-dreaming does not mean I am leaving behind goals just because I am unable to do them because of lack of ability and time. It means being able to reshape these goals to make them more tangible. I am convinced that life is unpredictable though. I may have un-dreamed these things only ton un-un-dream them because of certain circumstances later on. Like some people unfriend people on Facebook only to add them as friends again for reasons unknown to mankind. We never really know, and it’s okay because that is what makes life the most fascinating game in the universe.

 

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Three Little Girls

A little girl dreamt that she was a shooting star. She was gliding through the galaxies, exploring planet by planet, burning in her radiant flame.¬†The little girl woke up and said, ” I will be a shooting star!” They asked her why. But she did not have anything else to say but, “I will be a shooting star! There is no other way!” They laughed and told her that becoming a shooting star is impossible and unheard of. The little girl was not shaken at all. She simply said, “If that is so, then I will become impossible!”

Another girl woke up, but she did not have any fancy dream. She simply walked out the door and they asked her, “Where are you going?” The girl without a dream simply said, “I do not know, I have no dream.” They told her she will get lost if she does not have a destination. She was not shaken at all. She simply said, “I will go anyway. If I get lost, I will find my way again.” They told her that she will get tired because she does not have a dream. She was not scared at all and she told them, “Then I will continue to walk and run until I get tired, fall asleep, and maybe I will wake up and have a dream of my own.”

The last girl dreamt about herself in her own, comfortable home. There was nothing new, nothing different, that she did not realize she was dreaming. She woke up feeling the same as she did in her dream. They asked her, “Why are you not coming out?” The girl who was living her dream simply said, ” Because I have nowhere to go to.” They told her that she will get lonely, staying in her own shabby home. She was not shaken at all. She simply said, “I will not get lonely if I am living my dream.” They told her she was not living her dream, that she was simply scared of what lies beyond her comfortable home. She smiled, and told them, “Those who dream do not feel fear. Those who live the dream are scared of nothing.”

Whether these girls ever found what they were looking for, we do not know. What we know for now is that as we read this, dreams are working in their own mysterious designs, playing an eternal game of hide-and-seek.

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Through the Looking-Glass(es)

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I think most people would answer ‘vision’ as the sense that they would want to keep if they were in a situation in which they had to choose only one. Vision is very powerful. I honestly envy those with 20/20 vision even in their adulthood. It’s really a blessing to have perfectly healthy eyes. I have been wearing glasses for almost 15 years and I do not really remember what it was like to see the world in 20/20. Thanks to science and technology, I would be able to have this chance again in a few days. I am absolutely excited like I am expecting some kind of graduation but just like any graduation, I also feel a little sad¬†that I would be outgrowing something that I have been very comfortable with for 15 years.

When I was a kid, I would get these headaches, and I went to the doctor, and they said that I needed glasses. I get the glasses, and I put them on, and I’m in the car on the way home, and suddenly I yell. Because the big green blobs that I had been staring at my whole life, they weren’t big green blobs. They were leaves on trees. And I didn‚Äôt even know I was missing the leaves. I didn’t even know that leaves existed, and then…leaves!

-Erica Hahn, Grey’s Anatomy

The quote above was used in the show as a metaphor to the character’s coming out. And no, I am not coming out in any way in¬†this blog post but I was able to relate with how she described the feeling of getting her first pair of glasses.¬†Although I was able to distinguish the green blobs as leaves since I wasn’t that young when I first had my first pair, I was actually seeing them as blobs instead of their actual more complicated shape. Bad vision runs in the family. Both my parents had graded lenses of over 500 and my sister even had a grade over 1000. When I was in toddler school, I was looking forward to the day that I would wear glasses because I thought it was the sign that I have already grown up enough to be considered a ‘big girl’. I also thought people with glasses looked really cool and smart. A few years later, I was brought¬†to an ophthalmologist and was advised to wear glasses and on my ninth birthday, I received my first pair. It was a dark blue pair (with a grade of 125/175) with a hideous string cord. Wearing the glasses for the first time wasn’t an A Whole New World kind of thing. I felt pretty dizzy, really dizzy actually. I was walking very carefully because I was confused between the areas around my eyes covered with glasses and the areas that were not. It was especially difficult to walk up and down the stairs. But of course, since I am a part of the human race that has a good sense of adaptation, I got used to it and started to appreciate it. I really didn’t know that my eyesight was bad until I was able to wear this old friend. I thought everyone had a hard time reading small texts because well, they were small or that everyone was having a hard time knowing the objects that are at least 20 feet away from them because well, it’s logical to not clearly see things that are far from where we stand. I remember that even though I was already able to read well before my trip to the ophthalmologist, I was never able to finish even a pocketbook because my vision would blur and my head will hurt badly. But with my glasses on, I started to enjoy reading and writing because these things do not cause inconvenience any longer. I then transitioned into an awesome geek, thank you very much.

Wearing glasses has so many drawbacks in everyday life. There are so many mornings (or actually any time of the day when you wake up) that are incredibly annoying because you have forgotten where you placed your glasses and looking for it can be such a pain since without it, you are pretty much blind. I have often wondered how much hours I have already wasted looking¬†for these devils (I had a weird thought that these glasses have lives of their own and are purposely hiding themselves in very, very strange places like inside zipped pillowcases to make fun of me. LOL). Taking a shower sucks too because you would have to take your glasses off and I have no idea how many times I have mistaken the shampoo for facial wash or the conditioner for toothpaste. Even getting off airconditioned vehicles sucks because the lenses will fog due to the difference in temperature. It feels worse when the driver would drop you off at the wrong stops because you cannot see the road well because of your fogged specs and you can even end up hit by a random car, defenseless. 3D movies are among mankind’s best innovations but then you realized you forgot to wear contact lenses so you end up wearing the 3D glasses over your graded¬†glasses. I also felt kind of annoyed when I received sunglasses because there is no way I can actually wear them. The struggle is real! It does not help that people with good vision wear glasses (especially those without any lenses at at all) for fashion or trend–I kind of feel mocked!

I had my first pair of contact lenses in third year of high school for my prom. While it was really aesthetically more presentable, putting it on was excruciating. The thought of touching your eyeballs is not a very a good image. The idea that you can poke your own eyes because of your own stupidity wasn’t really a nice feeling. And even if these contact lenses made me feel more confident, I wouldn’t trade my good old specs for them because they aren’t really very comfortable to use especially after eight hours. You would start to shed tears and people would start asking you if you’re really okay. Looking for them is¬†ten times more painful and annoying because they’re so tiny and¬†they blend in any background.

My glasses are my old friends and they feel like a part of my body. You see, even if I would not use them anymore, I would still tend to rub the back of my hands against my face in an attempt to re-adjust the non-existent glasses. The sides of my nose bridge would always have dark spots to remind me that that’s where my old glasses were resting comfortably. On the other hand, there would be lighter lines on the sides of my face because those were the areas where the frame’s legs were on. I would always have that unconscious hand movement in the bathroom in which I would be reaching for my glasses. I would probably always touch my nose bridge because it became a personal habit to touch that area when I am thinking, especially when I am taking examinations. Sigh, dear glasses, I am still wearing you as I type this blog post and wow, I am already missing you.

LASIK’s effects are not permanent, of course. My vision would still get worse as I get older because that’s how it should be. I would definitely use this old friend in the future. But during the period that I wouldn’t, I would really¬†¬†miss it because like what I have said, it is a very precious friend. Until we meet again!

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Remodelled Realizations: Ideals that Medicine Has Proven Me Wrong

I have lost count on how many times I flipped my books, reviewers, and reports this academic year out of frustration. This whole year, I really have felt like I have become more like an adult with my ideals in life slowly shattering before me. I have expected the difficulty because it is already a given but I was taken aback by the feeling of merely wanting to survive. As far as I am concerned, it was not a part of my plan to just survive. It was my goal to enjoy the ride because this is what I am about to do all my life anyway. But reality was slithering around the apple of my optimism. I was starting to feel tired although I barely admitted this to anyone. Many days I really felt a kind of hollowness growing inside. Then I remembered writing this prayer last year and slipped it in my copy of Guyton:

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I stopped and realized the huge difference between my first and second year selves. No, I do not think I’m such a wreck right now but I am pretty sure I am not as idealistic. Somewhere along the road, I left a part of me with that enormous positivity¬†or maybe I was dropping bits and pieces of it along the way that I barely noticed. I am not sure if it is entirely a bad thing though. Medicine deals about so much harsh truths about pain, suffering, loss, and death. My idealistic and probably borderline naive self would probably not handle all of these things if I keep on believing (or pretending to not see the truth) and I would surely be crushed into bits. Medicine is a science, a guardian of truth and just like any other science, it can prove so many old beliefs false– pathologic etiologies, medical folklore, ¬†pharmacologic mechanisms of actions and yes, even some of my old ideals.

 

MEETING PATIENTS IS A THRILLING EXPERIENCE

I have always that strange dream about me walking through a hospital ward in my white coat. And as I walk further, patients will start to smile and feel relief as I speak with them. I had that strange vision for a long time until we have finally met real patients for our history-taking. I remember getting excited over my first meeting with a patient that I even told my parents about it over dinner like it was a big thing. That day came and it was anything but a thrilling moment. It was very, very humbling. The patient assigned to us has been in the hospital for around two weeks and he has been repeating his story to hundreds of students. He told us that he had a a difficult time sleeping and was looking groggy when we came but he had to answer our questions as a part of his ‘contract’ for discounted hospital bills. He fell asleep as soon as we left and that was when I felt how much of a burden we were to him but he was unable to do anything about it.

I have no idea how many patients have had the same experience. But their participation is irreplaceable in medical students’ learning because how else would a doctor be a doctor without learning from a patient? Not to objectify these patients but learning without them is also like asking a computer scientist to learn without any computer. When I went home after that encounter, I shed some tears and I still do not know how to explain what¬†I felt back then. It was almost like being told Santa wasn’t real after believing his existence all my life. Because I aim¬†to be a doctor, I have always wanted to ease the pain of patients and right at that moment I caused even more pain to the patient. But I told myself that day that I will keep on honoring these patients and their silent contributions by remembering them and praying for them. Instead of thinking about how much pain I have caused them, I want to think about how much I could learn from them to ease the pain of other patients someday.

 

SAVOR THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE IN MEDICINE

All my life I have been told that if I wanted to learn something, I should do it with joy in my heart. I should never be bothered by time because passion for something requires a lifetime that cannot be measured by how fast you have learned it but how deeply you have understood it. I carried this thought with me in medicine. Because I wanted to believe that I am passionate about this career, I read a lot of things. Because I wanted to satisfy my curiosity, I kept asking. Because I wanted to assure myself that I fully understood, I read notes from first year and even from my undergraduate days. Because I wanted to be able to share more, I research the things I do not understand. Clearly, I feel fire inside me each time I get excited over a topic discussed in class or just anything interesting that I have read. But do any of these things matter enough to come out in the exams? No.

I do not believe in my exceptional ability to understand¬†so many things, I am not a superhuman being. College made this thing very clear to me. I am not bothered that I do not get the best grades but it matters to me that I have a grasp on what I am studying. I do not mind not being able to know the books and reviewers word¬†for word because I grew up being told that memorization is the most superficial type of learning that if I want to actually remember it in the long run, I should never memorize but instead, understand. But the truth is that medicine can never work without memorization. It is quite frustrating when you¬†study how something works but you are asked about the smallest details. Sometimes I feel like some exams are more of a test of luck instead of ability because it does not usually matter how much you know if you are going to be asked about the most trivial things. But is there such thing as ‘trivial’ in medicine? Are we even allowed to judge any information as important and unimportant? When it comes to a real patient, it is impossible to know every single detail about him in just one encounter. But say, you have forgotten to note that he a really, really rare case of allergy¬†to some kind of drug and that killed him– can we actually say that this allergy was trivial just because we do not think it was a ‘necessary information’? I hate memorization but I understand how important it is to all of us. The thing about medicine is that every detail can matter. I guess the next time I start complaining about how this is not going to be asked in the board exams or this information will not make the patient feel better, I should remind myself that these ‘memory exams’ are just drills to remind me never to neglect the small details because they can totally save or kill a patient.

THE MEDICAL PROFESSION IS PURE AND NOBLE

My respect for the profession is enormous. I always see it as a noble profession maybe because all the doctors who treated me in the past have shown me that kind of love and concern. In my entrance interview, I was interviewed with three other applicants and they all said the same thing on why the wanted to become a doctor, they wanted to be of help to this society and its people. Whether it was all lip service or whatever, I believed them. In two years, I started to realize that not everybody thinks the same. Some of them do it for their families, for their parents, for the money they would receive after graduation, for the respect and fame, for the two letters after their name. I cringe a little when I hear people getting excited over wearing that white coat to show people (their parents, old friends, ex-boyfriends or girlfriends) how much they are worth. The egocentric nature of some of my peers can sometimes make me feel sorry for the patients who will receive less love because their physicians have too much love for themselves. I remember a ‘joke’ from a doctor that goes like ‘we can forget all the initial treatments but we should never forget our professional fees.’ Whether it is simply an attempt to keep the class awake or not, it still offended my image of medicine.

I am sure I am about to witness more dirt in this career as I walk further and to be honest, I am scared. There are so many scary things about medicine and most of them root from the fact that medicine itself is a battlefield. Competition is not a choice but a life source to a lot of us. Compete with yourself and do not mind what the other players are doing in this game, they tell us. But in a pool of highly ambitious men and women, the temptation to mind other’s business is difficult to resist. Because students know that not everyone can see the light at the end of the line, they want to make sure that they are among those who will. The environment is often suffocating and saddening. The workload itself is too much to handle but the competition is exhausting every ounce of energy you’ve got left.

 

Medicine is tarnished by a lot of dirt like any other profession. But it always boils down to “why are we still doing this?” It is all because we still have that tiny, tiny but powerful thing called hope. Hope that it would get better over time, Hope that it would go our way one day. Hope that this will really be our endgame. You see, medicine did steal away a lot of my precious ideals that led me into this path but at the same time, it offers me more room for new ideals that are probably more realistic. I am still in love the idea of being a doctor and¬†being able to ease other people’s pain while being of service to science and no ‘dirt’ can ever change that.