Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Cause it's FUN"

I only had one patient waiting for me at the outpatient department where I was supposed to go during the afternoons after our lectures/didactics.  I was looking forward to seeing this patient, as he was one of my first admissions, and as such, he was my first discharge. 

He was a young man, barely out of his boyhood. He was a smart kid…an achiever when he was in grade school and high school. Everything seemed fine until he ended up being greatly disappointed because of a family matter. It all went downhill from there. He was initially brought in for check-up because he had problems coping (suffice to say, he had problems I can’t describe right here for ethical reasons). The mind, including the ego, is a strange, and powerful thing… at the peak of your youthful talent, if it breaks and turns against you, you will never be the same again.

(Or you could still go back, but it’s going to take a lot of work.)

 At 22, a couple of  years after he fell mentally-ill, he had already been admitted into the psychiatry ward of my hospital twice. Because he was smart, he had looked up what his illness was all about…what highs and lows of it were, and how being a patient was supposed to be like. Actually, it was quite amusing when I first met him at the emergency room. He was pacing, would sit down and then get up again, and then do some martial arts forms (he strongly believed he was a martial arts master) before sitting down back again so we could  talk to him. One time, he looked me in the eye and then said, “Are you really a doctor? How come I know my disease better than you do?”

Despite my wearing the prescribed “empathic poker face” (which we are supposed to use while talking to patients), I couldn’t stop myself from cracking an amused smile. (The dude had a point.) So of course, yes, I told him I was a doctor, and that yes, I was going to help him. And so, followed the days in the psychiatric ward where the “wholistic” treatment, covering all the biopsychosocial aspects were implemented. He got out and I remember him thanking me profusely, and his mother wanted to talk to me on the phone when he got out.


And just this afternoon, when he showed up for the pre-scheduled check-up after his disharged, I couldn’t help but notice how, with just the right tools, enough support, and proper medications could really change a person. It could make or break his/her future. The man/boy who went for his check-up with me was a neat, debonair gentleman, dressed in a clean shirt, dark denim jeans and leather shoes, with his hair well-combed, and a bright countenance on his face. Quite an improvement from the restless, high-energy, young patient I had first seen at the ER a month ago, who didn’t know what he was doing with his life.

This patient was now able to take his medications on his own, able to realize what was wrong with him…and taking another stab at the bright, hopeful future ahead of him.

It was quite a long process, and his being there took a lot of effort from a team of people who helped him; myself, the nurses, his family…which finally made him realize that he held the central role. Everyone was going to be there for him, which allowed him to pull himself together. J

(I admit, it doesn’t sound as dramatic as the  scenes one sees on Grey’s Anatomy, or as mind-boggling as House’ , but I can’t deny that the feeling of knowing that you helped give a person another chance at life, and giving him hope when he broke down because he had none…is nothing short of magical. J)

(Upon leaving, he thanked me, and promised to show up for the next follow-up schedule. He also apologized for his behavior in the ER (he still remembered that he had doubted my being a doctor the first time.) I, in turn, reassured him that I thought nothing of it, of course.)

Trina, Mer  (my co-residents) and I were at the callroom earlier just hanging out, each doing some work on his or her laptop… “I can’t get it, why can’t people see that Psych is fun?” somebody said, after we were talking for a while, and the conversation somehow ended up on that line..

We all just laughed. (“I know, right?”)


I just love my job and the opportunity it affords me to help people in a not-so-conventional way.

One time, I found myself talking to an old med school classmate at the hospital entrance while we were waiting for the oath-taking ceremonies to start that morning. He was telling me about his job, saying how stressful it was (he’s an Anesthesiology resident), and how, in crucial moments, he had to make sure that he was able to do the procedure of putting his patient “to sleep”, and then bringing him out of the chemically-induced sleep again…all the while making sure that so-so patient is breathing properly. And all this with a consultant/attending, a senior resident breathing down his neck.

Him: “It’s so stressful.”
Me: My job is stressful too, you know.
Him: Aren’t crazy people crazy already? Nobody’s going to die there, unlike in my specialty.
Me: Well, (pause) if they come to me crazy, I have to make them “uncrazy”…doesn’t that sound stressful and important as well?
Him: (Silence…) Hmm…true.

Got tons of paperwork to do…but I just had to update you, lest I fall into the deep pit of Burnout oblivion. ;-)

Thanks, you’ve been a great audience.


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