A medical student. A simple question.
“How am I supposed to go on caring?”
At the time, suggestions abound.
Work-life balance. Self-care. Hobbies.
Remembering our initial calling.
Remembering we still make a difference.
Remembering our love for medicine
and the privilege we have as caregivers.
But then the realization-
I don’t know the answer.
I only know that I have witnessed around me-
at every stage of training and practice-
evidence of emotional exhaustion.
So this is my plea.
A plea as we
embark further into
the world of medicine.
never to lose the satisfaction
we experience in caring for others–
the thrill savored
when we supported our first patient,
the warmth felt when families embraced us,
entrusting us with their care,
to preserve our love,
That despite challenges faced,
we refuse to lose what we have gained.
That despite the obstacles
in an ever-changing environment–
despite the self-doubt, criticism, personal struggles–
despite the constant immersion into death and suffering
and the consequent self-preservatory layers
of emotional shield–
That we would continue
Because this is my hope for the future.
That we would never lose the simple joy of helping others
How do I know
the pill won’t seem
bitter to your tongue
through your teeth?
How do I wear
a once white coat
stained with tears
How do I compel
my pen to write
scripts to fight
a dimming light?
How do I know
which waters will flow
to unearth the strength
How do I persuade
a heart to let go
when it’s my hand
that sets you free?
How do I ensure
my smile won’t be
one of the last
that you’ll see?
How do I force
my ears to hear
a song I fear
of dusk so near?
How do I know
which waters will come
to enshroud the doubts
I had lunch with a homeless man.
But not just any man. An elderly man, a former high school teacher…and a former patient of mine from a charity clinic where I used to work.
It happened as I was driving through downtown, stopped at a light beneath an overpass. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice.
Since we were both hungry, we did the natural thing: we went for lunch at a nearby cafe. Despite intrigued glances from others, we had a lovely lunch. Looking back, it may have been one of the most enjoyable lunches I’ve ever had.
A few days later, I was contacted by the clinic who informed me that I had received a letter from a patient. And here I will share it with you—in a form put into verse by me but which maintains its original wording:
Dear doc, you have been so kind to me.
Why, you even took me to lunch.
I wish I could give you something in return,
but I know I don’t have much.
So I write these simple words to you
in hope that on those days
that they’ll make you smile and give you strength
and peace in many ways.
You are a doctor to many,
but an angel you have been to me,
who encouraged, cared, and healed my pain,
and a light you made me see.
I am sad that you are no longer my doc
but am glad that you are my friend.
And I hope we can keep in touch
until the very end.
So why did I share this? Because I was “challenged” by Liz to give a gift to someone. But now I realize—I don’t think I succeeded in giving anything to anyone.
Rather, the gift was given to me.