15 January, 2014

medical students write!

I'm becoming more and more interested in the idea of narrative medicine, storytelling in medicine, and what the humanities can teach us in general. Little things pop up in the hospital everyday that deserve to be written about. Even in our boring electronic medical records little gems pop up, like "the patient lives alone with her dachshund named Piper*."

There are a lot of physicians, other practitioners, and students who feel the same way, from journalists like Atul Gawande, to novelists like Abraham Verghese. I've been exploring a few outlets for medical professionals, one of which is in-Training, a sort of online magazine by and for medical students. They published a poem of mine a few months ago, and more recently an essay about I wrote about coping in the ICU. You can read it, and get a peak into the lives and brains of many other medical students, here.

*this dog's name has been change in accordance with the HIPAA pet privacy act ;)

03 January, 2014

loveliness in presence

Happy New Year! I hope you are enjoying a bit of time to reflect on 2013 and dream about 2014. And staying warm. I think resolutions are a beautiful thing, especially when they go beyond the typical list of do's and don'ts. 2014 is going to be a very exciting year for me. But first, a bit of reflecting.

I happily have been able to read a lot more than usual over the past 6 weeks, especially during the 2 weeks around Christmas & New Year's.  Growing up, I almost always had 2 novels going at once, but it's been quite a while since I've had enough leisure to do that. It was a great joy to read through Marilynne Robinson's Gilead in just 3 days. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. The entire book is a letter written by an elderly pastor in the small town of Gilead, Iowa to his young son. He tells of abolitionists and pacifists, devout friends, deviant sons, and the old man's attempt to find peace and reconciliation in his final days. The language is simple and cuts clean to the reader's heart. Pristine.

Here is a passage that immediately had me writing in the margin:

By “life” I mean something like “energy” (as the scientists use the word) or “vitality”, and also something very different. When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the “I” whose predicate can be “love” or “fear” or “want,” and whose object can be “someone” or “nothing” and it won’t really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around “I’ like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else. But quick, and avid, and resourceful. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned.
I think this describes the way I feel about having difficult discussions with patients in the medical setting. Conversations about death and dying, scary diagnoses, psychological turmoil. During my month-long rotation in the ICU this happened pretty regularly, and I found myself feeling better on those days compared to others. I hate to use the word "better" here. Perhaps what I mean is something like more fulfilled, more alive. It's something I tried to explain to my husband, cringing as I used such positive words to describe such a negative situation, failing to explain it even to myself and wondering fearfully if it were just some sort of morbid fascination. But reading these words cleared it up for me. Like a confession these conversations highlighted the presence, the I, of those patients and their families. And what I felt was privileged to be part of such a lovely thing.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...