Thursday Born

The everyday life of a psychiatry resident (who was born on a Thursday).

Coping

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Someone just tweeted this really beautiful article from the New York Times, called “Notes From a Dragon Mom.” It’s a very sad yet somehow uplifting piece written by a mother who has known from birth that her child is not going to live very long. And it reminded me of a conversation I had with a patient while I was on neurology.

I was seeing the patient in the emergency department, and while waiting for my Resident to come and officially do the consult, she was talking to me on and off, in a bit of a daze, about her family. Mostly I remember her because I felt so helpless to help her – there was nothing we could do but wait – yet she quite desperately wanted someone to fix her. She didn’t quite know what was happening and she kept forgetting where she was, but through it all she knew that she wasn’t well.

I also remember her because of how she talked of one of her children, who I gather only lived till her late teens or early twenties. She didn’t talk with sadness, but almost with joy. She was so happy to remember her daughter, to remember how bright and beautiful and determined of a person she was, despite her condition. She felt blessed that her daughter had been a part of her life, even though it’d only been for a fraction of the time that you want your children to be around.

As part of my psychiatry rotation, I’ll be spending a total of six afternoons in the child clinic. It has made my days long (~11 hours) since clinic runs late, but it has been a very interesting experience. I’ve seen quite the range of the autistic & aspergers spectrum, from non-verbal teenagers who spend most of the interview curled up with their mothers to highly functioning teenagers dealing with having just started college. And you see quite the range of parents. Some are handling it with more grace and good nature than others, but all are handling it. They might not have to watch their children die, but they’re faced with the knowledge that when they die, who’s going to continue to take care of their child?

I don’t find death in and of itself tragic until I’m faced with the thought of those left behind; that’s when my emotionality kicks in. I watched a patient in our geriatric ward code a few days ago. She had choked, and it took a while before they got her breathing again (she’s okay now, by the way). I felt some shock and worry and sadness in the beginning, when there were some other patients and nurses around reacting emotionally to the situation, but once they were gently escorted away, I was watching with mostly a professional detachment and curiosity.

Maybe this is why I like to hear people’s stories. I prefer to see them as people, as individuals with friends and families, with triumphs and hardships, and getting a better, bigger picture is how I do that.

Have I mentioned yet that I’m really enjoying Psychiatry? It’s definitely high on my list right now.

Written by Aba

October 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm

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