It was a busy Friday afternoon in the pediatric intensive care unit. The prior evening, he began having profuse lower gastrointestinal bleeding necessitating urgent transfer to the intensive care unit.
Here I am, come and get me! A playful provocation we have all used with much more than literal meaning as a mantra. But going through the rigors, chills and metaphorical bacteremia of medical education, I lost some of the pieces that made me confident to be myself.
I waited for nine months to meet you. / I know that one night I loved a woman and then you, a blackberry of cells, found your place in her fertile garden and you grew there
“Good morning, I’m Dr. Watt and I’m going to be taking care of you today.”
The faint glow that is the light at the end of the tunnel hits my face as I realize that intern year is almost over. One would think that having been through the personal loss I have — losing two beloved older brothers at a young age — that intern year would be more than manageable. Yet this past year has been, for me, a chaotic roller coaster ride.
The baby’s hat is bright orange, knit with vertical ribbing to mimic a pumpkin’s ridges, and topped with a tiny green stem. The cheeks below it bulge in perfect crescents. I turn to the mother to ask if she made the hat herself. Her eyes don’t leave the muted cartoons bouncing across the television screen as she mumbles, “The nurse or someone gave it to her.”
Nine months of sabbatical / I meet them in the airport lobby / of the newborn nursery.
For children who have been reunited with their parents, though, the damage may have already been done. Let’s discuss some of the key consequences associated with parental-child separation in detail, starting with the notion of toxic stress.
By anyone’s standards, from a medical perspective, we did everything right. But all I could think about is how much we hurt this boy by saving his life. How we saved his life just enough, not to kill him, just to take away every meaningful part of human existence.
On my first day of intern year, my attending corrected me in the hallway after I introduced myself to a patient by my first name. Following this, I sheepishly adopted a habit of saying “I’m Dr. Last Name” when sticking out my hand to greet a patient. In clinic, the nurses call me “Dr. Last Name,” even when saying a casual hello. When you refer to yourself as a doctor enough times, you start to believe it.
The grass grows tall outside my uncle’s home — he only cuts it when we play croquet. He blazes a crisscrossing trail through the sea of weeds to form a maze-like playing field. We push the white wickets into the earth, grab the mallets, and drop the balls to the ground.
Early in intern year, I reached out to residents in other departments who were part of my patients’ care in the hospital. In an effort to redirect my thought patterns, I asked them how and what drives their interaction styles and their medical decisions.