Walk Away

Sometimes things get quite difficult. Conversations and conflicts. And sometimes, you’ve got to have the strength to walk away.

I used to think that walking away from a problem was a sign of weakness. When I was younger, I used to think everything was black and white.

And both black and white needed to be called out. Needed to be stated in every conflict. There was only ever a right and wrong. So why should I walk away when I knew that? I had to say it. I had to speak the truth as I knew it. And nothing else mattered. I thought that I would always regret what I didn’t say. 

As you grow up, you realise that a grey exists, and the number of shades of grey increases exponentially. To the point where black and white no longer exist. They’re essentially theoretical. 

When that realisation comes, I learnt that I can walk away. I should walk away. My thoughts and opinions are just another shade of grey. As is the person’s in front of me. As is the problem in front of me. 

I can try to fix the problem, of course I can. But when you’re in the middle of it, think about a few things: 

1. Am I going to make a difference by carrying on talking or fighting?

2. Is it going to make the situation better or worse?

3. Is it going to negatively affect the people involved?

4. Is it going to make me feel good about myself?

If the answer to any of those is not in favour of continuing the issue, you’re allowed to walk away. You should walk away. 

And that’s not a weakness, that’s a sign that you’re looking at the bigger picture. That’s what matters. 

This isn’t to say that you should shy away from dealing with issues. If you believe black and white exist despite the answers to those questions, then go ahead and continue saying how you feel. Big issues in society should be questioned by everyone. But when it comes to your circle and the issues that affect you, you can walk away for the benefit of everyone. 

You’ve got to have the strength to walk away. Despite your ego, despite knowing what you think is right, despite being in the position where you can say something. 

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Don’t Smile Please

So the other day a family friend said to me “You really don’t look like a doctor. You look too small”

Before I could get angry, he proceeded to say “you know what you have to do? You gotta have attitude. You shouldn’t smile. If you smile or laugh, people won’t take you seriously”

I stared at him for 5 seconds. 

What in the heck?

This is actually a popular idea I’ve heard. But I’ve never heard it being said so blatantly. 

For some reason, people think that in order to seem put together, you gotta be serious all the time. You gotta have the attitude of a professional. You gotta have that command. And that command, comes with a serious face.

I think it’s the whole, in order to be experienced, life needs to have made you cold and hard. 

And I don’t really get that. Just how much value is attached to this kind of thing? I mean realistically it’s only a first impression kind of concept. Like when you walk into a room and greet someone with that attitude, they’re meant to be like woah. But after that nobody wants someone around who’s constantly serious, right?

And more importantly, how well you work should be ultimately what people should respect about you, right?

I mean that’s my thinking. 

Of course I could be analysing this all incorrectly. It could just be me who looks like I’m too small and needs to be more serious.

But to be honest, life is serious enough. I just try my hardest not to let that show on my face. 

Frankly, I don’t care very much about how others view me. But as I’ve mentioned I’m not cut out for the workforce. And this may in fact be a legitimate thing I should be concerned about maybe…

Oh well. I don’t know. I’ll find out next year whether people will take me seriously as a doctor or not.

I’m Fine

I’m fine. Totally fine. It’s no big deal.

It’s not upsetting or stressful.

It’s fine. 

I can’t do anything about it. So why shouldn’t I be fine?

I should be.

I am.

It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna pass. 

It has to.

You Know You’re Old When

You go out and buy yourself a birthday present

Yay new watch! I decided I have finally grown out of using digital watches. It was a big decision. But I made it. And I know I’m old.

You know you’re old when you feel like an arcade is too noisy and you can’t stay there for more than 20 minutes

You know you’re old when bumper cars give you neck pain

You know you’re old when you get sleepy at your own birthday event around 10:30pm.

Haha. I had a great birthday. No really. Some friends in India with little children took me out to dinner and the arcade. Where I engaged in air hockey, shooting hoops and bumper cars like I was age 12. 

They then insisted on buying me a cake and making me cut it. 

Their little 4 year old boy  whispered into his mother’s ear that he wanted to get me a chocolate for my birthday, and made me close my eyes so he could surprise me with it.

I haven’t had a birthday celebration quite like this in years. It was brilliant and special even though I was miles away from home.

Friends from home wished me too. Overall it was an awesome day! 

How Old Are You

Well. It looks like the Earth has nearly made another rotation around the sun 23 years since I was born.

People keep asking me how old I’m turning this year. Which is fine except it always takes me a few seconds to answer them. I just don’t keep track.

Or maybe because I don’t feel like I’m 23. Obviously because Taylor Swift doesn’t have a song for 23 and so I’d much rather be 22.

Nah. It’s just. Same thing as last year I suppose. The pressure is on to have achieved a lot by this point in life. I’m still in Med school. Woop. People in my class are getting married, having kids, owning houses even.

I say Blech to all of that.

I can barely own my emotions. I can’t stand the company of people for more than a few of hours, and kids frighten me.

I just don’t think I’m mature.

Although now I think I’m not really expected to be. I kind of have one of those “plan” things for the next 2 years in terms of where I should work, etc. That, to me is a BIG achievement. But I am aware every plan is subject to change. I mean, I’m not so naïve as to think everything will work out how I want it to.

Ah. How mature of me.

I’m just a bit tired of life to be honest. I mentioned that it’s really hard to be in your 20s. I’m feeling it a lot these days. How I wish I could quit life and go live on Mars or something. I just cannot be bothered facing the day every day, waiting for something to happen, but it doesn’t. Watching friends move on to bigger and better things and accepting that I’ll see less and less of them soon, dealing with people who are these so called “colleagues” who have a whole different set of rules as to how to deal with them. Like no they’re not your friends. No, they don’t care about how your day is going. They just want you to do whatever it is they need, and they’ll say everything you want to hear to make that happen because they’re sizing you up too.

Blechhh

I’m just not cut out for the fakeness the workforce demands. That’s another big reason I don’t feel old enough to be a 23 year old.

I gotta have thick skin right? Gotta be used to how the world works and not let it affect me. But I just don’t think I can.

Anger is a big poison for me. I get angry at people quite easily. Angry at how they talk to each other and treat each other. Angry when they care so little about things like doing their job right. Angry when they’re so obviously fake.

And the worst part is, I see those opportunists around me who are all those things I mentioned above, but they know how to play the game and they put themselves ahead. Meanwhile, I get angry and probably get left behind. You gotta be that kind of person to get ahead apparently.

Err. This is probably something I’ll get over when I’m 30 right? 40? 65?

Oh God I do not want to have to deal with people for that long.

I bet I sound like a cynical 50 year old right now. Saying I hate people and wanting to live somewhere on my own. But it’s not all bad. Truly there are some awesome people in the world and life has some great aspects.

I’m just in a not so great stage of it I think.

As Ed Sheeran says: I’m well aware of certain things that will destroy a man like me. But with that said, give me one more.

Really liking that song.

Oh birthday plans! Didn’t talk about those! Probably because I don’t have any. I’m in another continent from the people I usually hang out with for my birthday. This year I’ll be at the rural hospital on my birthday, seeing patients. And then maybe I’ll get some cake or something. Or I’ll reward myself with a lot of sleep.

Living the wild life, Abracadabra

 

On The Spot

I’ve always wondered how I would react in a situation in the community where something happens that needs medical attention. I’d heard from some friends who had experienced such situations. 

They had either pretended they weren’t medical students or they had risen to the challenge somehow and at least made sure the person ended up in a hospital for further care.

I had my situation today. Far far away from home. 

On the way to the hosp on my elective in India, I saw two motorbikes fallen over and 3 people on the ground. One of them was a man who was already getting up and helping the two girls. One of the girls looked fine and she stood up with help. The other girl however, lay on her back, crying, clutching her left leg. 

At this point I stopped and thought I should do something to help. Scary thing that. Realising that you’re actually in a position that gives you the responsibility to stop and help. I felt hideously unprepared.

Anyway I approached the girl on the ground and my immediate thought was oh my goodness should I introduce myself as a doctor? Because I wasn’t one. But if I didn’t, they’d think I was just a bystander and not really cooperate. 

But I couldn’t stand there and have this internal conflict. I looked for any evidence of fracture or bleeding, etc in that leg. After going through the whole DRSABCD acronym that they’ve drilled into us. By this time a lot of ppl were on the scene and the girl was helped up and she could walk. Yay no fracture. Yay no bleeding. 

My expert advice was to take her to the nearest hospital. Something many others had already figured out. A TukTuk pulled up and the girl hobbled over into it. I tried to comfort her as best as I could and told her she didn’t have a fracture. But she needs to be in a hospital to assess her leg further. She was still in tears and didn’t want me pampering her knee at all. This is probably when the magic words “I’m a doctor” would have helped. 

But I couldn’t do it.

Okay I don’t know why. Yes because it’s the truth, but not saying so probably indicates a lack of confidence in my abilities. Because I’m nearly done. I should be able to handle things like this. I should be able to be a doctor. Nothing major is going to change when I get my degree soon. I’m essentially all done with my training. 

So I suppose I did have an element of lack of confidence.

It ultimately ended well because the girl was okay and I helped a bit I think. 

But if there is a next time, I gotta be more confident. Hopefully that’ll come when I’m put on the spot.

Off To Elective

Alrighty! I’m here in India!

Coimbatore, to be precise. A city in the southern part of India. Here I am to do my 8 weeks in a hospital in rural medicine and Emergency medicine.

So. Why’d I choose this place? Well it’s a developing country. It’s what uni recommends to do on your elective. Go to a developing country and learn about the health system there! That’s what I intended to do. I’ve also been to Coimbatore before, So I’m familiar with the city and the hospitals. I figured this would help me get into the system straight away without too many new place barriers. And I was sure I’d see so many different things.

So I got here. Met my supervisor who is a 70 year old woman, still practising medicine. Which for me was a big shock. Like sure I admire her drive and commitment to medicine even at this age but Gosh I would not want to keep my brain going for that long. 

Anyway she was really lovely. And unlike my selective last year (if you remember, where I found my supervisor was on a holiday and I never met him), she was on to planning my 8 weeks straight away. She took a genuine interest in my learning and said that because I’m the only student at this hospital, I can pretty much see whatever I want, and she would organise it for me. 

Major advantage, that. As opposed to going to a hospital somewhere where there are a lot of other students to compete with to see interesting things, I like being the only one given these opportunities. 

I also think I’ve picked a good hospital in terms of patients. While they all have different pathologies etc, they all speak English! Which was super impressive. I was fully prepared to have to take histories in Tamil (the language here), but it turns out that may not be as hard as I thought! So yay!

The plan for the next 8 weeks is quite varied. My supervisor is more keen than I am to get me to see as many things as possible. While my focus will be on rural medicine and ED, she also wants me to spend time with her in geriatrics, put me in neurology, nephrology, and anything else I want to experience. 

How neat is that!

I think it’s also good for my short attention span because I get tired of runs pretty quickly. 6 weeks can often be a very long time, as I’ve said lots of times before. Hopefully the variation in these 8 weeks will make that a lot easier!

So. First days are always first days like. Getting lost in hospital, making awkward conversations with the other doctors, smiling a lot without much reason, etc. But I do expect it to get easier. As most runs have.

Will keep updating! For now, I gotta go meet my supervisor! 

Good Intentions

When you decide to do something just because you thought it would be the right thing to do and you took certain things and people into account to do that thing, but it ends up blowing up in your face and you’re left feeling like you’ve done something wrong but you don’t know what..

Yeah. That kinda sucks.

But then I know I didn’t do it out of any bad intentions. I know I didn’t do it because I didn’t care about other things.

So I shouldn’t care right?

Well I mean. I have to care. But I suppose I shouldn’t feel yucky. Right? 

It’s no big deal. 

Right?

In The Deep End

Today was my 3rd ED shift. And it was the most challenging 7 hours of my life. 

Mostly because of just 1 patient. 

At the beginning of the shift, my consultant was called to resus to see a 15 year old boy who had come in with 5 days of headache but who had since become unconscious in the resus area. 

He had no other medical conditions. The whole team was working on making him regain consciousness. While differentials such as meningitis and seizures crossed everyone’s mind. 

The mother came in shortly afterwards frightened and distressed as she recounted how he had had only a headache for the last 5 days but today while she was at work, had called and said bizarre things before hanging up. She returned home to find him unsteady on his feet before collapsing to the ground. The mother also brought her 4 year old son with her. There was no father to be seen. 

The young boy regained some consciousness. He was responsive to speech and followed commands. Everyone became confident at this improvement. My consultant decided now would be a good time to CT scan his head for signs of infection or bleed. 

The boy was wheeled off and my consultant and I followed him. 

The CT scan showed a large tumour pressing on the boy’s brain. Causing the brain to be pushed to one side, likely resulting in this symptoms. He would have a large amount of pressure in his skull at that time. 

The consultant took the mother into a room to talk to her. I was present when he told her the news. 

She instantly burst into tears and wailed. Her precious, obedient, healthy boy was going to be taken from her? How could this happen? Will he be cured?

My consultant told her that he would contact the neurosurgeons who would tell her more about the next steps in management. 

She cried harder. She told us she had no one else. That the boy’s father was estranged from when he was 4 years old. That the boy was all she had. 

He younger son was oblivious to what was going on as he quietly played with some puzzles. 

Meanwhile we were again called to resus as the boy had lost consciousness again and was now showing signs of very high pressures in his skull. One of his pupils were dilated massively while the other was small. The neurosurgeons arrived to take him to theatre immediately and they began to put a tube down his throat as he was no longer breathing on his own. 

At this point, the consultant asked me to sit with the mother. And console her and prevent her from witnessing the placement of the tube. 

I was way out of my depth. The mother begged me to be with her son. She asked me whether she had given him some food that may have caused the tumour. Or whether a fall as a young child would have caused it. She told me she worked so hard and had saved money for a house for him in the future. How he had wanted to be a pilot when he was older and how she had arranged classes for him to learn more about this every week. 

She asked me if he could be cured. Or if he was going to die in ICU where he would be taken after the neurosurgeons performed an emergency operation to relieve the pressure in his brain. 

I comforted her as best as I could. Telling her she couldn’t have prevented any of this. That some things just happen. She asked me why God was taking her son away from her. I had no answer. She said she had been a bad mother. 

She eventually decided to call the boy’s father as he was taken to surgery. 

To complicate matters further, the father began yelling at the mother. Saying it was her fault he had gotten cancer. 

This carried on to the point where my consultant had to intervene to explain to him that it was no one’s fault. 

The boy’s father said his nephew also had brain tumour but he’s fine now. 

The mother, who was hurting in a big way, clearly fed up with the father’s accusations said that she was the best mum in the world for her son. And that if cancer ran in the father’s side of the family, he should have mentioned it earlier. 

It was all rather weird for me. 

But it was just

Quite confronting. 

I’ve never seen such a situation before. The reality of what happens if medicine isn’t good enough. And sometimes it just isn’t good enough to answer every question or solve every problem. And what that leaves behind is quite devastating. 

I couldn’t process everything for a while. My consultant asked if I needed a break to calm down. 

How did I react to this? I said I didn’t require a break. I just need to go see the next patient. 

I can’t say why I said that. I guess I needed to feel like even though it was obvious that not much could be done for that young boy, much could be done for other patients. And I needed to see that. And I needed to be part of that. To get over the disappointment and the grief that I had witnessed. 

It all just goes back to what Robert Frost had said:

“I can sum up everything I have learnt about life in 3 words:”

It Goes On…..

I guess I have to also be grateful for my life and my health. And the health of those closest to me. It shouldn’t ever be taken for granted