Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blessings of Child Psychiatry

Child psychiatry is a hidden blessing. I've shadowed the same doctor twice, and each time, I learn a few new things. They're all relevant and all important, but in shadowing the life of a doctor, I've come to understand many things about life, many things about death, and many things about chronically ill children.

It is astounding to me how many of my pre-conceived notions about the field of psychiatry were dispelled as soon as I walked into the first consult of the day. Mentally ill children, chronically ill children, developmentally delayed children all have one thing, if not many things, in common. They're children!

The innocence of a child doesn't leave him/her as the result of a psychiatric illness, medical trauma, or otherwise. Patients still asked us why things were happening, they were scared, they were frustrated, and they were confused.

Their smiles, their laughter, and their authentic emotion made me understand one thing: Life isn't something to ever take for granted. To always wonder why things are a certain way is a very healthy, proactive attitude. Honesty is your best policy always, but especially with children. Often, they're more perceptive than we give them credit for being.

In private dialogue with the doctor, I discussed with him what he thought about my abilities in psychiatry, as he saw me in case reviews, case conferences, patient-parent interactions, and socialization with other doctors. The one thing that has caused a smile to permanently grace my face is the fact that he said that he believed every single one of my demonstrated abilities were natural. The funny thing is, though, that doesn't matter. To avoid narcism, I'll say that if something we did as a team brightened the life of a child, even for just that moment, it was all worth it.

A face to face encounter with an actively dying patient isn't ever easy, but my first encounter happened with a teenager on this psychiatry service. I realized my love for life, my zest for people, and more importantly, my longing to make medicine a career for a lifetime, Death is a difficult concept for many people, and the experience was tough, but it was the most rewarding thing I've witnessed.

Though this post is pretty jumbled, there's one thing you should know. Kids are still kids, regardless of their labels. It's all too often that they are treated as soup cans. Second, you might be reading the ramblings of a future psychiatrist. Only time will tell!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Independence Day

July 4, 2010 is a day that will be forever etched into my brain. It's the day that I truly had a moment to reflect on what 'independence' means to me as an American citizen and as a sister who has a brother commissioning into the Navy in a few weeks. He'll be a "Navy doctor" when all is said and done, and I couldn't be more proud. The Navy will pay for the entirety of his medical education, and I know he's excited. Yet, as "Anchors Aweigh" proudly graced my ears during a church service yesterday, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride. My brother, a soon-to-be first year medical student, is willing to make his medical education all about service to his country, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As I stood with my hand over my heart, I fought back tears.

Since the rocky start that we had to him accepting my wanting to become a doctor, I've talked it out to him. He understands, he's completely on-board, and he teaches me every single day. You see, he spent a year in a Carribbean medical school, but due to some financial issues with the institution, he had to come home for a while and reapply in the United States. He's so excited, and I'm so excited for him. He'll be at a school about an hour and a half from me, so I'll take weekend trips to see him, to help him study, and to just enjoy our time. I love him. So, so much.

Further, I began thinking. Independence means that I, as a disabled American citizen, can become a doctor. And that is the greatest gift I can think of getting. No matter the challenge, Americans live in a country where there has been legislation adopted that protects them and that ensures equality. Though I, and the many others with disabilities will have difficulty that is unexpected or not able to be foreseen, it is incredible to me that there is such a freedom where, in essence, those difficulties don't matter. That is such a blessing and such a reward, and I'm so honored.

Later in the afternoon, we went to see the new version of the film Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Honestly, it was one of the deepest films I've seen in a long, long time. A scene that stuck out to me and that will most likely creep up in later writing took place after Jaden Smith sustained an injury to his knee during the semi-finals of the kung fu tournament. As he laid in pain on the stretcher, he asked Jackie Chan if he should return to the match, and Jackie Chan said that he didn't think his current condition would permit it. Jaden, the twelve year old that he is, reminded Chan of something he told Jaden a long time ago. He said, "When life knocks you down, you stand straight back up."

I couldn't help but think about that as being exactly the philosophy that medicine has instilled in me. Not necessarily for what it has done for me as a patient but what it has done for me as a future doctor is incredible. I have so, so much to be thankful for, including the patients I will serve, the insights they will give me, and the trust that is instilled in a doctor-patient relationship. See? It's not about me. It's about them.

May you all discover the beauty of independence and the gift of freedom!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Inspiration Beyond Words

There are no words to describe the story I'm going to let these few videos tell you. Just sit back, relax, and be inspired!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Lifetime Wish

In pediatrics, there's often discussion of how a doctor is not only treating the child, but that you're also guiding the parents in making healthy decisions in regards to their child.

That's something I want, over all things. I want, more than anything in this world, for my child's own pediatrician to guide me through milestones, through diaper rashes, and through the frustrations of temper tantrums.

I want to be able to bandage the knees of my child and to have the magic kiss that takes all the pain away. I want to show a child love like he's never seen before. I long for my arms to be a safehaven for his tears and my heart a safety net for his fears.

I constantly think about my situation, however. I understand that fertility isn't an issue associated with cerebral palsy, and for that, I'm immensely grateful. However, I worry. I worry about being pregnant from a physical standpoint. Bedrest for 3 months? I'll take it. All that matters is that I'm bringing a precious soul and a precious life into the world, and for that, I'll do nearly anything.

My heart also is called to the throws of international adoption. Children who have so little and deserve so much need a breath of new life, new hope, new joy, and new love. And really, adoption follows a similar process to childbirth in that it allows parents to restore hope in the life of a child, and in my opinion, that's the greatest privilege anyone could be given.

It is blogs and Youtube videos like Steve and Kate's that make me understand what undying love for a child looks like. It's Dr. Smith's photos of his granddaughter, and it's my own memories of my mother in my childhood.

The only thing that I want more than marriage and to become a doctor is to be a mother. To be a mother of a young child who will learn, grow, and love in the tight grasp of my hug. My heart is heavy, but I'm certain. My lifetime wish will come true.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Native Inspiration.

For whatever reason, via Twitter or Facebook, it's been difficult for me to find medical students/doctors/medical professionals from the state in which I reside, which is Georgia. It's quite sad, but I'm not surprised. We're behind in nearly everything, so why not be behind in technology and social media as well?

It might be hard for me to write this post without a few tears, so if the keyboard is slick and there are a few typos, please excuse me. Read on, and you'll figure out why.

I had just declared a pre-medical intent. It was the end of February or early March, and as doctors often do on Twitter, many of the doctors that I follow follow this doctor with the handle "doc_rob", so I clicked on his handle to find out more about him.

And then the moment occurs.

I read: Location: Georgia (Augusta).

I breathe, and I take a moment to contain my excitement.

I read again: Location: Georgia (Augusta).

Could it be? I found a Georgia doctor! I really did!

Immediately, I clicked to follow him, and I tweeted him a simple message, which was something to the effect of "Hi, I'm a pre-medical student from GA. Pleased to follow you!" We got to chatting about school and discovered that he is a short drive away from me.

The "awesome-this-world-is-so-small" connection is just the beginning. You see, Dr. Rob has taught me so many things, and I'd like to publically thank him while sharing his lessons with you.

Dr. Rob has taught me, rather indirectly, how to truly love medicine. Each time I read his blog posts, as humorous as they may be, I know. I know that he truly loves his job, his practice, and the life that "doctordom" has created for he, his wife, and their four children. I know that being a doctor doesn't require a lifestyle of seriousness in the sense that a doctor can't have other hobbies. Though his blog is healthcare oriented and one of the most educational blogs on the 'net to date, he has fun. What doctor would give me a Golden Llama Award and cause me to think it was a blogging Grammy or something like that? He has fun. That's most important.

Dr. Rob has also taught me even further to find joys in the simple things. It was a short time ago in which he wrote about why he loves being a doctor. Through the simple, underappreciated action of a hug, he showed his patient that he valued her as a person in addition to his patient. He cared for her as a person and as a patient. In that sense, he not only taught me because I'm a fellow human being. See people for all they are, all they bring, and all they have.

Finally, the last thing Dr. Rob has taught me (for now, anyway) is that anyone can do anything they work hard to achieve. I'm aware this sounds cliche, but it just means more than you know to have "homegrown" support. From tweets to blogs to podcasts, Dr. Rob teaches.

And he teaches from his heart. Thank you, Dr. Rob, for being the intelligent, hysterical doctor, mentor, social media fanatic that you are. I appreciate you more than you know!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm A Person, Too

A few days ago, a mentor of mine posted a tweet that caught my eye. The woman that had originally tweeted had a complaint about seeing a woman in a wheelchair one minute, and then the same woman was hauling her luggage out on foot a few minutes later. Her argument was that the wheelchairs used in airports shouldn't be free unless someone had documentation. My mentor, a well-respected pediatrician, indicated that not all disabilities were visible.

Agreeing with him to the point at which I was almost in tears, I responded that though I have a condition that is visible, I also have a condition that's not. Even more, there are distances that are just too much for me depending on the day's events and energy conservation. The tweeter then responded that she thought that I would react the same way if someone was acting that way, and I replied with a simple "Not at all. That could have been me!" And then I gave her a tip that I'd like to share with all of you. Most of you know this, and to most of you, it would be common sense, but please indulge me.

If you're ever in contact with someone who looks like they may be having difficulty, and you're concerned, instead of uttering something under your breath and making assumptions, simply go up to them and ask if you can assist. Some people with extra challenges will get a little pestered by that, but at least you used your concern in a productive manner, and there was absolutely no harm done.

In relation to the "visibility" issue, I have hydrocephalus, and though I haven't had any troubles for ten years (knock on wood), being out in a public place when symptoms start could pose some danger that might be strange to those people who aren't as well-aware of the condition.

On the same note, the "making assumptions" act is rude. It would be almost as if I were to look down the street and see a woman walking her dog. "Oh, that woman doesn't have a car, so she must have to walk everywhere she goes." Who knows? Maybe the woman is enjoying the evening breeze and getting her exercise.

Next time this happens to me, do I have permission to scream, "I'm a person, too?"

Because chances are, I just might.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Anatomy of a Dream

As evidenced by the content of this blog, one of my biggest dreams (for a really, really long time, might I add!) has been becoming a doctor.

Another, hidden inconspicuously within each and every word of this blog, is to become a published author. Picture this: a ten year old Erin, writing an assignment for her fourth grade language arts teacher about the absolute miracle that happened to her just a few weeks prior. A week later, she receives the assignment with the teacher's comments, and the only things she had said were "I'm speechless. Wonderful job." Back at home, I had an uncle who was an English professor, and he was elated to find that I had honed these expressive language skills. I would talk about writing with him for more hours than you and I can count. "What's the best way to get better?" I'd ask. "Practice. Every single day." he'd answer sincerely.

And so, for the last ten years, it's what I've done. I've practiced. Every. Single. Day. After browsing some tearful inspiration for the last couple nights, I developed the idea for my memoir to be written in a series. Since I'm twenty, I'll write the manuscripts in increments of five years. Though I want to keep many details under wraps for now, I'll have you know that I am working more diligently than ever this summer to make A's in my courses and to make my dream a reality. It is my dream. With the ideas that I have and the heart that I've developed for the art that is the written word, I'm confident that it will happen. I will write things that no one has ever heard me say out loud. I will write my heart. I will write my soul. I will hope to connect with my readers in such a way that they will understand my perspective, empathize with it, and internalize it.

Most of all, I'll write because I love it. I'll write because it's my voice, and I'll write because words are the most beautiful things I've ever seen, and I'm so blessed to be able to use them.