Desensitized to Death?

Death is the culmination of life. It is inevitable. Whether you are young or old, boy or girl, poor or rich, we all have the same fate at the end. And the scary part is, no one truly knows when he or she will finally take his or her last breath.

Witnessing life being taken away is a fairly common scene in the medical field. I’m already 3/4 done with my clerkship (junior internship) year in Medicine, and I’ve witnessed a lot of family members crying in the hospital halls because they lost their loved ones. Even if they already knew what was bound to happen, they are still stunned by numbness inching through their bodies the moment they lose their loved ones.

I remember my first code blue, (an emergency situation requiring immediate resuscitative efforts) she was a neurosurgery patient. She was just in her 40s and was quite a chatterbox before her elective operation. But the surgery left her in a coma until eventually she deteriorated. I was monitoring her vital signs and fluids every hour until she died, so the moment I noticed that there was no pulse or heartbeat, I was caught off guard and was frozen for a second, but eventually I got back to my senses and called the code. Unfortunately, we were not able to revive her. When the medical residents called the “time of death”, I was shocked. The patient’s daughter and son were crying. My heart fell to the ground. After a few seconds I ran towards the door and tried to find the nearest comfort room and cried like a baby.

But a different scenario happened in my latest code blue, which happened last week. He was a Pediatric patient who had a congenital heart disease. I did CPR and it was my first time doing it on a pediatric patient. A few minutes into resuscitation, the patient’s parents decided to sign the Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR). Everyone was quiet and they gave the parents time and space to grieve for their loss. It was a painful scene to watch, but to my surprise, I did not cry. (It was quite surprising because I am a cry baby). I just went back to my work like nothing really happened. When I went home that day, I called a friend because it really worried me that I did not feel anything. I asked him “Am I a bad person, or as a future physician is it bad that I did not feel anything when the child died?” But he said that the fact that I am checking and asking myself why I just felt numb when our patient died is a good sign. Because maybe deep down, I still do care. I just repressed all the emotions because there are still loads of work to be done that day. And true enough, after a few days, I balled my eyes out when I remembered the last few minutes of that child’s life.

It’s hard in my line of work to care and not to care. When is it wrong to feel and not to feel? Is it okay to be desensitized to death because it is commonly encountered in our everyday lives? How much is the right amount of care that should be given to our patients so that we can give them the optimal treatment but at the same time we won’t be too attached to them? These are the things they don’t teach you in med school. These are important questions that we should take note and assess every day. These are the type of questions that can only be answered by experience. And our answers to these questions would help mold and define us into the type of physician that we will be as we practice medicine.



Image source: here


Night mumbles #1

“The most adult thing you can do is failing in what you really care about.”

That is probably my favorite line in the movie Unicorn Store, starring Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson. I can identify myself with the protagonist in the movie, because like her, I have passion for something that others seem to think I am not good at.

Tomorrow marks the end of my first month as a clinical clerk but I feel like I’m lagging behind my co-interns. I keep doubting myself. Do I want to become a doctor? Yes. But do I have what it takes to become one? I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy what I do and I am learning, which is supposedly what matters most. But every time I’m alone and before going to bed, I can’t help but evaluate myself and my progress. I keep asking myself “Why am I not smart enough? Why am I not good enough?” My insecurities get the best of me most of the time.

So probably, hearing that quote was timely. I just have to accept that I am human. I am not perfect, and will never be. I will fail a lot of times, but the important thing is that I have to stand up and learn from those mistakes and shortcomings. I have to stop comparing myself to others. They’re humans, too. They have their own struggles.

I am human and I failed and will fail again, BUT I have a purpose. I have to etch that on my mind. I may not be smart but I have passion for medicine, and I believe that it is also my purpose to serve as a medical practitioner (someday). At least I have something to look forward to every morning when I wake up. I will get there, eventually. I still have a long road ahead of me. 

Another New Chapter

Two years have passed since my last blog entry. A lot has changed, and lots of lessons learned. I am finally done with my third year in medical school which is by far THE hardest year for me, and I am so glad that it’s officially over. But when an old chapter ends, a new one begins. Last June 1, I started my first day as a clinical clerk.

A little background: Here in the Philippines, we have 4 years of pre-med (mine was Biology), 4 years of medicine (3 years of typical lectures + exams and one year of clinical clerkship), graduation, then one year of post-graduate internship, then board exam, before finally getting that MD. And another few years for residency and fellowship.

My first rotation as a clinical clerk is Community Medicine, from June 1-28. Most people say that it is one of the “most chill” or “easiest” rotation so I should enjoy it while it lasts. Our call time every day is 6:30 AM because we have to travel in a rural area. We arrive there at around 8:00 AM and leave before 5:00 PM. For the first week, my groupmates and I will be working in the health centers/clinics. I thought 3 years of medical school and lectures and exam have prepared me for this, but whenever a patient comes in I still feel rattled. I got to deal with suspected tuberculosis patient, suspected diabetes, and burn patient among others. I am aware right before I entered medical school of how hard this profession would be, but I am finally realizing how important and fulfilling it is because we’re actually dealing with life. Truth be told, I still have lots to learn. This is my first year in the clinics, heck this is just my first week. But I am also ecstatic because all those years of sleep deprivation just to absorb all information given a limited amount of time is finally coming into fruition. I am finally applying all that I’ve learned. It is scary, I must admit, because I do not know everything. But, it is also fulfilling. I am ready to learn more. I am ready for this new chapter in my life.

Image source: Here


Reminiscing an Old Friend

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the thesis poster exhibit held as a requirement for our undergraduate course (BS Biology), according to my “On This Day” app in Facebook. But the memories of my thesis days – the last few months of my undergrad – are still clear as glass in my head.

It was as if yesterday that my thesis partner and I were panicking if we would graduate on time because the reagents needed for our study were not available in the stores here in the Philippines. Shipping would take months, but we thought that we couldn’t afford to lose that large amount of time. But we took the risk, and waited. And waited. And waited. There was pain whenever the calendar changes its date and our reagents still have not arrived. But eventually, we received a call from the University that our order have been shipped to our school and were ready to be picked up.

When we were finally done with the experimentation proper, I remember there was a lot of crying, while doing our draft. We thought we were already done with the hard part. But countless coffees were consumed, and papers printed before we reached that final draft.

But the memory that stroked me the most was the hurt I felt with my thesis partner, who was my closest friend in college. I felt that she left me at the most crucial time. I would not go into details because admittedly, we both had shortcomings and were not able to communicate. It was only a month after graduation that we actually talked about what happened to us and asked for forgiveness, but it was only through Facebook chat. We are okay now; we are still friends. But we rarely talk to each other anymore. We have been both busy with our lives, and it feels that we are in separate worlds now. I’m currently taking up medicine, and she is now working in a laboratory. But she also plans to take up medicine this year; unfortunately she’ll go to a different university.

Honestly, I miss her. She is one of the nicest persons I’ve known. Ever since first year college we were inseparable. She was always may lab partner, that is why we decided that we should become thesis partners because we know the dynamics of each other – how we work, our strengths and weaknesses. It was really unfortunate how we were not able to patch things up before graduation. It still saddens me that it was only through chat that we were able to say things that we should’ve said personally before parting. But I know that our friendship will remain special to us, even if we aren’t as close now as we were before.

I know that whatever path she’ll choose, she’ll succeed because in the four years that we’ve been together as friends, I have come to witness how far she’s grown into a strong, independent, and fine young woman. I hope that someday our paths will cross again and rekindle that special bond we used to have.

What Made Me Happy Today: Day 2

Today, my boyfriend and I had a study date. He’s currently taking up MS Biology. Even before our undergraduate years, we spend most of our time studying together. But nowadays, we seldom see each other because we now go to different universities. And our study date earlier made me nostalgic. I missed this. I missed him, actually. He’s my best friend, and he has been very supportive of my dreams. I would’ve dropped out of medschool if it wasn’t for him. He constantly reminds me of things that are more important in life. Without him, I wouldn’t have survived my thesis days (during my undergrad) and now, my medschool days. I’m lucky to have a best friend who understands me, and cares for me deeply. He’s the most genuinely nice person I’ve ever met.

I wish that someday I could repay him. I want to be there when he needs me the most. I want to help him push through the struggles he’ll face in the future, the same way he has helped me with mine.

I am thankful to have someone like him – someone I can walk through this life. And together, as he always jokes, we’ll conquer the world one journal/one med book at a time.

October 31, 2016

I haven’t written since medschool started even though I promised myself that I would find time for writing. To be honest, I haven’t been myself lately for I have been in a constant emotional turmoil. Three months in medschool and I haven’t adjusted yet. I am always tired, I am sleep-deprived, and my brain is very exhausted from working 24/7. I also realized that I am a grade-conscious student. I always get depressed when exam results are returned even though my performance is fairly good, because those aren’t good enough for me. So I end up putting a lot of pressure on myself, which has taken a toll on me in the last couple of weeks. Every night, I cry. I couldn’t even remember the last time I actually felt happy about something that happened to me. I cry, I am sleep-deprived, I eat unhealthy food, and now I have a pimple outbreak. So this pretty much sums up my 3 months in medschool.

So last week, I talked to my friend regarding my current emotional/physical/mental state. She advised me to write. She said that she was in the same state as I am nowadays last year, and the one thing that really helped her recover was writing. She said I should try to write at least one good thing that happened to me each day. It doesn’t have to be long, a simple sentence would do. Also, it doesn’t have to be a major thing, even things that made you smile would do. She said just try to write, and in the next few weeks/months, I should go back and read everything I’ve written and see how each day I am slowly changing. So here goes my first “What made me happy today

This is really just a simple thing, but as I have said I’ve been sleep-deprived for months now. But it’s a long weekend, and fortunately our exams ended last week. So for the last 2 days, I have slept more than 8 hours per day. Last night, I have slept 10 hours. Yes, this already made me happy. I hope in the next few weeks I’ll have something more to be happy about. But sleep is all I want now. ❤️