Turning Over a New Leaf
Starting to feel slightly fatigued from my residency training in the U.S., I departed for a one-month international rotation in Japan, hoping this would broaden my perspective and help reignite my joy for medicine. It was during a trip six years earlier to South Asia that my decision to go into medicine was affirmed, and I hoped this trip to Japan would provide me with similar inspiration.
Beverly called the ambulance because she couldn’t walk anymore. Her feet were edematous after ten days of radiation treatment for metastatic lung cancer, and her heart was slowly overfilling with fluid, backlogging into her body. She was stoically resigned to her pain and newfound infirmity, but she kept a wry sense of humor, cracking jokes about being waited upon and the “magic carpet ride” sling we lifted her onto.
During transport to the hospital, Beverly told me she grew protea: pale red, pink and cream-colored flowers native to South Africa. Her family sells them at local farmer’s markets in bouquets. When I inquired further, Beverly perked up and gave me the rundown:
I can tell you stories about my day, about the mundane miracles that transpire in the time-warped world of this hospital birthing center, but words will hardly convey what it is like--for me--to be a new labor and delivery nurse. Every time I meet a patient and ask them about themselves, I am reminded that I am only hearing bits of the whole story of their life, that I will never really know what life is like for anyone else, and that no one will know (or needs to know) what it is like for me. This seems lonely at first but is actually deeply intimate.
I am a worrier. I worry about real and imaginary things, about significant issues and minor ones. My goal for 2020 is to stop being a worrier and instead become a warrior.
I want to embrace each day with courage, not with angst. Perhaps if I do, I will no longer suffer from 24/7 headaches that challenge my ability to concentrate for any extended period of time. Maybe I will stop losing myself in reruns of Law and Order: SVU and instead engage in real life adventures--solo or with friends--at a museum, theater, or restaurant.
At one time or other, we'd all like to turn over a new leaf.
Which leaf would you choose right now, in 2020, and which have you chosen in the past?
For now, I would choose the leaf that has me feeling bad whenever I run late seeing patients--which is always--because I haven't figured out how to keep a visit within the 20-minute slot that's been allotted.