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Today’s doctor

Mum said to me today, “you should write a book.”

“On what?” I asked, bemused but trying hard not to laugh.

“On how to pass OSCE as a medical student.”

I dismissed the thought almost as soon as my mum had it. Doctors don’t write books. Doctors only treat patients. That was the traditional role of a doctor anyway. Certainly, the main reason I wanted to be a doctor was primarily because I wanted to work with patients and manage illness. Continue reading

A me update

Whilst I have nothing of particular interest to talk about, I wanted to pen down (? type down) my thoughts on the last month or so. My friend and I talk every day. Not by calling each other but by recording voice notes and listening/ replying when we have a few free minutes in the day. I find that by sending her voice notes what I’m effectively doing is gathering my thoughts and putting it into a neat package and letting someone else interpret it. It’s oddly cathartic.

That’s the thing about thoughts. They’re often multi-directional, random, obtrusive and sometimes chaotic. Yet we need thoughts to process the different stimuli of the day. We need time to gather-wool as it were. I once asked my granddad what he does all day. He was 80 years old at the time and had made a retirement career of sitting in a chair the whole day, doing nothing. Or so I thought. He replied by saying :

“I’m thinking.”

“about what?”

“80 years of thoughts!”

I’ve made an active effort to have ‘me’ moments in the day. Just to stop for a minute and allow my brain’s fast speed train of thoughts to pull into a station. Organising my mind and my thoughts helps me to organise my whole day, week and efficiently use my time. And I’m finding, as I approach nearer to the end of my education, these moments can transform an otherwise stressful day into a fairly manageable one.

I’m still trying. Sometimes I fail massively and give into all my FOMO  (Fear of missing out) thoughts. Recently I started watching this guy on youtube. He’s funny, has an alternative lifestyle to most and is really charming. I had major FOMO just realising his skills and attributes far outweigh my own. FOMO is real people. But I also, in hindsight, should have realised that maybe I am contributing to my own FOMO by allowing such thoughts to fester.

I recently started Vlogging. About medicine. Getting into medicine to be exact. That’s been an interesting experience. The first thing I realised is that I need a new table lamp. The lighting is awful! Second thing I realised is that nothing is easy if you want to do it well and be successful. Think I’m better off trying to be a doctor than a YouTuber. But still I had to give it a go…for my own peace of mind.

I’m starting a new placement tomorrow. Can’t believe in 5 months I’d be done. 7 years man. It’s no joke.


Mirror Mirror

Reflection. It is the dreaded word in healthcare. Why? Because it is uncomfortable and tedious. Imagine selecting the most boring film you know and watching every excruciating minute of it. Now imagine watching it with the most critical person you know. Does that sound fun? Reflection isn’t meant to be fun. But it is vital for creating a better health care service.  Continue reading

Transcending the role

A week ago I met with a patient who was staying in hospital for a few days after having had bowel surgery. He was upbeat. Telling me about plans for when he would go home. Telling me about various events in his life. I took a history. In medicine, ‘taking a history’ basically means finding out as much as you can about a patient, as efficiently as you can, so that you can plan their treatment and hospital stay optimally. It requires practice and there is a technique so I thought I’d get some practice in. I was feeling quite happy by the end of the chat. The patient was jovial and I had done my duty. I got up to leave, smiled briefly and he went back to reading his newspaper. I went home that night, narrated my experience to my family and thought nothing more of it.  Continue reading

“When Breath Becomes Air”

Paul Kalanithi was an American neurosurgeon who, in his dying moments, wrote a sort of autobiography of his personal and professional life. This book took two parts. One in which he was the doctor. Treating complex brain pathologies with a fervour of success. Aspiring towards pioneering research, at the brink of stepping into a life-long dream. Only to be diagnosed with lung cancer which would eventually kill him. Forcing him to turn his 20 year life plan into more of a 20 month plan. The second part is about his journey from diagnosis onwards. The courage and persistence he must have shown in the face of death isn’t something I can possibly even begin to imagine. And yet as a future doctor it is something that I will not only have to begin to imagine but see daily. Emotions are always running high in medicine. There’s always something going wrong and death is inevitable.

Many doctors I know have told me that in light of so much pain and misery the only way to escape is by becoming resistent. Putting up a wall. A front. So that every time you see a mother crying for her unborn baby, you don’t too break down and cry. When you see a sister’s tears for a brother who will never speak to her again, you do not also think of your own sibling and feel dizzy at the thought of loosing them. Death is part of life. But when you are a doctor, you’re the one who must hold in the tears and emotion and offer solutions and maybe even hope. Or at the very least clarity and the truth. It’s not your sorrow to share. Emotional blunting some call it but I think it is a form of survival. How else would you be able to get through day after day of telling people they have incurable cancers and disorders that no medicine will help them survive?

My issue though is that I’m not just a future doctor. I am also a human being. I’ve also been granddaughter who has lost a granddad, a niece whose lost an uncle. And that excruciating pain of sorrow never dulls. Its terrifying. Its not unique. My issue is that I know I should be able to separate my own pain and that of the patient’s but how can I? Empathy and sorrow seeing other people’s pain is what makes us human and yet it is that very quality that can run away with you and turn a perfectly good doctor into an emotional, distraught mess.

This book explores the journey of a doctor as he becomes a patient to his own disease. It is a very difficult book to read. But one that reaches into your heart and pulls it right out. It explores death from a different perspective – from a person who has experienced it both for his patients and for himself. As said in the book: ‘dying in their fourth decade is unusual now, but dying is not’

Dying is part of life. Death surrounds us. But it isn’t always dark, depressing and terrible. Sometimes, some people only start living when death is in sight.

That’s all for now.


A case of a girl with stomach pain…

Stomach pain -or as they are medically known – abdominal pain is a very common complaint and one that almost all of us must have had at some point in our lives. There are many kinds of stomach pains. We can categorise them based on how they feel: eg. dull, sharp, burning, crampy. We can do one better and categorise them on location: upper abdominal, lower abdominal, right upper, left lower. We can even categorise them based on how long the pain has been there for: seconds? Minutes? Days? Years!? By doing this we can already start to form what sorts of things are probably going wrong in the abdominal area. This is called a focussed history taking of a patient. Not that I’m an expert but I’m going to attempt to discuss a particular case of a woman with abdominal pain and through that case, hopefully highlight to you how important a good history is.

Continue reading