In a relationship with Medicine
I had an epiphany one morning in the shower, where most of us often do. I thought: I’m in a relationship with Medicine. Okay, so it’s not an entirely life-changing realization. But if what you have takes up all your time, makes you stress-eat, and sucks up all your energy for anything else, would you ever think that you could describe it otherwise?
But seriously, I’ve experienced the Stages of Love I learned in Discovery Weekend more with Medicine than I have with my own relationship. The past five years have been nothing but a cycle of me choosing to love Medicine over and over again.
During our first year, Medicine was the sweetest boyfriend. I’d spend hours, days and weeks just learning about him. And he would never run out of things to tell me. Everything was just so interesting and new! But the romance eventually faded came exam time (or more like after getting the results of my very first block exam). I was disillusioned, and I even wrote about how he wouldn’t love me back despite my best efforts to win him over. But I chose to love him and to make the relationship work.
So we compromised. I also learned that he wasn’t actually asking me to do (know) everything. He just needed me to understand him better. We were back at the romantic stage and everything was wonderful again. I got better at prioritizing, and I was rewarded with scholarships I needed until clerkship.
Clerkship. The relationship became rocky again. Ecstatic about the first day in the hospital! Huh, I didn’t realize how bad it really was to be at the bottom of the food chain. That resident/nurse/associate was a bit rude. But, oh my god, I finally had my first successful IV insertion! Gimme some charts, I feel like I can finish 30! OMG, di pa ba mauubos yung mga charts? Admit pa more! Interview pa more! Thank you, Lord, I can finally drink some water. CODE BLUE. Nope, no water for me. Okay, revived after 10 epis. CODE BLUE. No, no, no, siya ba ulit? CODE BLUE (in a different place). There’s another?!
And there it was — the first time Medicine ever truly broke my heart. I guess that will always be one of the most memorable experiences those of us who’ve had a relationship with Medicine would tell you. Looking into the eyes of someone who, just minutes ago, was smiling at you, telling you “Okay naman po” when asked how he was feeling. And now, those same eyes are just staring blankly at the ceiling. No pupillary response upon checking. No pulse. You don’t believe it as much as the people who are crying in the room do. You see them taking out the ET tube and unhooking the patient from monitors as you take off your gloves. You hear the sobs and you tear up a little while you’re washing your hands. And then you realize that you still have to go back to your ward to check on a patient, accomplish some databases, and then admit a few more patients according to the resident who just texted you. So you shrug all the bad feelings off and continue working. Cry it off and sleep? Too bad you still have to continue working for 10 more hours after that life-draining 24 hours before you could sleep on your bed.
You then tend to forget about that first code when three more follow. And then it becomes a daily thing, and you don’t know exactly when it happened but you’ve become numbed and detached. Because you have to. You have to learn how to not feel the same as anyone would in that situation. You pump like a machine, do paperwork like a machine. And you feel stuck and, again, disillusioned. You realize: I am not saving any lives. This wasn’t the relationship I signed up for.
My relationship with Medicine in the past two years has been more often like that. Things become routine. You get jealous of things you see on social media. You question why you got into the relationship in the first place. You feel trapped and abused, physically and emotionally. But you push through. And then there you are—struck by moments of romance, like free food, simple thank you’s from patients, being appreciated by colleagues and superiors, controlling the camera in a lap procedure, being given the first cut or being able to suture in an OR, your first successful intubation, making gigil all the newborns you catch, and—my personal favorite—hearing a newborn cry after a few seconds of silence.
Medicine has been little like what “Grey’s Anatomy” promised it to be. You don’t really get to save lives in an exciting way all the time. Heck, you don’t even get to see a different case every single day. But you realize: As in relationships, loving Medicine is a choice. So you continue to work and you continue to love. And those moments of romance? You realize just how much your choice was worth it.
Happy fifth anniversary, Medicine! Here’s to a lifetime of getting to know you better, getting over our misunderstandings, and choosing love and happiness every time!
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Danielle Mendiola, 27, of Quezon City, recently graduated from St. Luke’s College of Medicine and passed the September 2017 Physician Licensure Examination.
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