Today I did the normal attending staff physician thing of going to grand rounds. Grand rounds are mornings of learning, with a few hours of interesting talks by residents, staff and visiting lecturers. This morning, an old friend was our guest lecturer.
Fourteen years ago we began medical school together in the hallowed halls of an old building on the side of a mountain, and every day we climbed hills both physical and figurative as medicine poured itself into our minds and hearts. For 18 months of clerkship, when medical students first interact with patients, we grew into being doctors. On so many occasions, he saved me – and perhaps I saved him too. I remember those days as if they happened yesterday; they were days full of excitement, emotion, and exhaustion. Probably some of the most illuminating days of my life, I grew from a little wee baby medical student into a competent trainee physician. But it was not an easy road, and it really helped to have a friend to lean on. This friend stayed my constant, as somehow we ended up in almost every rotation together. When medical school was finished, we went our separate ways into residency and our futures.
As he said today, “look at us now”. Both of us ended up as Emergency Physicians, he in the US and me here in Canada. All grown up, we have both been attending staff for years now. We teach and train our own crop of medical students. Listening to him give a dynamic and passionate talk, his words resonated with me. The years melted away and I remembered why our friendship took root in the first place: our hearts are in the same place with regards to patients. We both value our patients’ stories, the person behind the sickness. We respond to our patients with patience, compassion, and an open mind.
Listening to my old friend helped me remember, today, the emotion and joy of what we do each shift, each patient encounter. Seeing him, hearing his voice, brought me back to that day in Geriatrics, in 2006, when a little old lady refused to get in her bed because she thought there were cockroaches. No one could convince her otherwise, as she was delirious. But this young man, this third year medical student with not much experience but lots of compassion, hopped in her smelly sick bed and lay down to prove the absence of said cockroaches. Wouldn’t you know it, she smiled and got back in bed as soon as he got back up.
So thank you, my friend, for being the confidante I needed when life kept throwing pain and fear and stress at us. Thank you for giving the smiles and hugs I needed back then, when often life was so lonely even in hallways full of people. And thank you, for bringing back memories and emotions that can hopefully knit their ways back into my daily practice, and help me find joy in the every day at work again.