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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Snapshot of a moment

So many moments to remember. The 90 year old man in the ICU, head down, back hunched—I needed to hold his hand. I know it matters. Wife also hospitalized—lupus and dementia—he kept saying "oxygen." The defeatedness in his face. "Lymphoma" his first whispered words. The bright, white hospital light—too bright. There needed to be tenderness for this frail, strong man. As the resident and intern walk away, the patient turns to me, eyes bright and wide, hand still in mine, squeezing. I lean in close to listen: "I need oxygen or I get violent." The resident waits for me, at the door. O2 sat 94%, fine, but he was short of breath. Resident shrugs, "he's okay."

I wanted to stay. I wish I could do more. We are in the presence of such vulnerability, such humanness, and every little thing—touch, listen, glance, leaning—matters, I think, I hope, as I walk down the hall with the residents, back to our ward.

There have been a couple of encounters like this in the past weeks (another week gone by, already?). It's hard to stop and write and think. It's hard to collect my thoughts and process them. It's easy to let my emotions dictate myself. I wanted to write about Obama's State of the Union Address. About America the Philosophical. About e.e. cummings at Book Culture. But right now I need another kind of mental processing. I'm yearning, toiling, praying, loving.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First Day

The Painfully Enthusiastic
AH, I'm part of the medical team! (Island Med Student blog)
I'm writing to capture this sense of gratitude and appreciation for today, my first day on the wards in general medicine, and my first rotation ever. This is a day to remember! I'm working as part of the team at the Bronx Veteran Affairs hospital, and I'm feeling 1) relieved, 2) grateful for the education and support I've received, and 3) optimistic and hopeful about this rotation, and this year.

A couple of thoughts:
1) I cared for Mr. M, a patient with gangrene. True, I've taken the H&P (history and physical in med-speak) multiple times before, but this time I felt like I had a much more substantial role in making a difference for him. When he wanted a salad, I could try to find one for him, and go back and check to see if he'd gotten it. And I think he appreciated having a hand to hold during the blood draw. I hope I'll get to see him tomorrow again, if he's still here (he's scheduled for a surgery). He's not my assigned patient, but I'm feeling this sense of "myness" for him. 

2) I presented Mr. M's case to my intern (1st year resident), who seemed impressed by the completeness of my presentation, and gave a lot of good pointers. I'm excited to start doing things on my own: presenting to the attending, writing progress notes, drawing blood, really helping out the team--as soon as I can! It felt validating to have prepared for the H&P, and to be able to do well on it, and I'm going to work to get it better, fluent, and memorized. 

3) Tonight, I don't have to worry about studying. Yes, it'll be learning, but I'll be reading and learning on my own accord, to learn everything I can about my patient, and it feels real and meaningful.

4) I'm grateful to my intern for spending such a great deal of time with us medical students, spending two hours going through my presentation. I will make it a point to get better and smoother. I'm still quite loss at to what to expect in terms of the daily schedule, how to use the computer system, how to write progress notes; yet the laid-back atmosphere of the team and their expectations has put me much more at ease. Still, I want to take charge of my own learning and challenge myself so I can help the team and patients the best I can.

To communicate, present, learn, connect--art really is at the heart of medicine. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello 2016, hello again!

"The Doctor" by Luke Fildes (Wikipedia)
It's been so long since I've written that I'm quite at a loss at how to start. So much has happened in the interim: I finished my Bachelor's in Psychology, went on to do my Master's in Music Studies, and am now in medical school, year two! With the transitions and medical school, this blog fell way to the side, for which I am making amends!

Where to start? I still can't quite grasp that I started this blog in June of 2010—I remember it was a summer day in Beijing between my freshman and sophomore year; I was interning in the marketing department of a seed company, and I had an impulse (it may have been too muggy to move much and too polluted to go outdoors), which resulted in The Birth of the Artistic Synapse. There, I decided "synapse" was an apt metaphor for connections, though at the time I hadn't known to what manner and extent those connections would play out.

This blog became about connections between ideas, thoughts across disciplines. Especially in music and psychology, and more generally in beauty and artistic perspectives toward unconventional subjects and objects, and in the world of living. It also became about connections to myself: what I want, what I love, and, why I am going into medicine (The Art of Medicine). It does me good to read that post again today, as embark on my very first clinical rotation next week in internal medicine.

But most importantly, this blog has made connections with others. Strangely enough, one reason it has been so hard for me to write again is the paradoxical knowledge that comes with readership: I am less at ease writing when I know others are reading; yet all the more reason to do so! You, readers, have delighted with me in neuro-analyzing Mona Lisa's smile, relating the works of Escher and Chopin to String Theory, and (mis)applying the Heseinberg Uncertainty Principle to love. You've even stuck around for infatuations with Organic Chemistry (a product of orgo-withdrawal). 

One message from a reader in particular struck me dearly, and left an impression. I think I was in my neurology block, when I received in a message in my inbox asking if I still wrote, especially now about life as a medical student, and referenced this blog in his new blog project: I'm touched I played even a slight role in someone else's blogging endeavor, and I'm writing this post, starting anew, with his words and encouragement in mind. He quotes Carl Sagan: “writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other.”

I think of how other blogs speak to me—Loose Signatures, The Feminist Spectator, Live Thoughts—whether a delightful thought, an unexplored topic, or a relatable personal experience, and I see how blogging mattersover time thoughts are better formed, emotions better understood, actions better intended.

Looking through my old posts, I do think my writing has helped me become a better version of myself. As I read, I am reminded of the wonder and delight present even in the face of tedious memorization so often necessary in medical schoolI'd been there before, after all. And as I go forward, I think there is no better time than now, as I care for patients, in bringing out the best of medicine: the beauty of human life and connection. It's time that I write again, because I want to capture and preserve these moments; I want to always remember the artistry in our profession, and writing helps me do that. It helps me be a better self, and maybe, even, help others do the same.

I came across a post from exactly three years ago on this first of the year with the thought, "Our journey is right here, right now, and to discover we'll just have to keep our eyes open, new, and shining." There's nothing like the past to help us go forward, to help us learn what makes us tick and make the most of our learning. It's even better when shared with others. I'm excited to bring in the new year with you! It's going to be a good, growing 2016.