Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Power of Friendship. The Bond of Medicine.

I've considered myself pretty lucky as I've grown up. Typically, as the "different" kid, I drew an extra special crowd. I remember my first friend in the first grade. Her name was Sarah, she had white blonde hair, and her eyes were as big as, well, I don't really know. But they were beautiful. And I was convinced, even in the first grade, that her eyes were big so that she could see the bigger picture.

Fast forward nine years. I'm sitting in a sophomore, high-school-level physical science class. You know, the one that combines physics and chemistry and was virtually the worst idea that has ever been established? Yeah. That one. One day, as I approached the front of the room (the lab tables were arranged in horizontal rows), I tripped over one of the table legs, and my teacher proceeded to freak totally out. Luckily, my family was really good friends with the school nurse. She was paged to the classroom, and all was well. I was perfectly fine, albeit a bit shaken. Then, about 15 minutes later, as I made my way back into the classroom, the overprotective teacher began to ask if everything was okay and if there was anything he could do. One thing he did, though, was something that changed my life forever, and for that, I will never be able to adequately thank him for nor accurately express to you. As soon as I walked back into the room, he had the front row seat ready for me. The young lady in the seat next to the one the teacher had picked out for me was someone I knew after having a science class together the previous year, but she was brilliant. So smart that I was afraid to strike up a conversation.

The next day, which was the first day with the new seating arrangements, we talked, laughed, and exchanged stories all throughout the class period. What I found about this amazingly brilliant young woman was that she wanted to be a doctor. She was so dedicated to her schoolwork that she often didn't make the time to have outings with her friends, but she was so eloquent that you'd never be able to tell that her nose's favorite view was the deep, black printed words on a textbook page.

I like to think I broke my friend of most of what she experienced in the way of obligation to her text and to her work. As we became fast friends, I discovered that not only did she want to be a doctor. She wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. Yes. My friend wanted to be a brain surgeon who operated on and saw children. I was more than fascinated by her drive, and her willingness to work as hard as it took shone through in whatever she did. That year, and really, every. single. year since. A short time after we became friends, my teacher had told me that he thought I would make a fabulous doctor. Shrugging at the idea, I knew it wasn't possible. You know, this guy's a science teacher. Which inevitably means he's a little off his rocker from the start, right?

Never really considering the idea, I shrugged it off. Teachers are supposed to encourage their students to aim high, so he was just doing his job. Right? My special friend asked if I needed help getting to class one day, and so I took her up on the offer. It was often in high school that I got fatigued from carrying all of my books and things around with me all day long. The building, just the one, is bigger than my college campus, so by the end of the day, I was sore and tired. Any energy conservation we could take advantage of was definitely welcomed.

As we walked through the pristine white hallways of the place I'm still trying to forget, we laughed. Like no two females have laughed before. We talked. Like there was no way we would finish a thought. No matter how hard we tried. The year progressed, and I was set. I knew that I would be a neurologist. Because my teacher told me I would need to subscribe to and begin reading and devouring "nerdy" material, I subscribed to Neurology Now, which is a magazine published for patients with neurological conditions as well as for their families. As a result of my having cerebral palsy, the subscription was free. It's a really, really neat read for doctors, med students, and interested parties.

Eventually, though, the doctor dream rolled off my back. There was no way in Hades I wanted to do math and science (and be nerdy about it!) for my entire life. There was just no way. So I stuck with the thing I was comfortable with, the thing that I knew for certain that I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to teach special education, so after breaking the news to my best friend, I did just that. In my senior year, I participated in an internship for students wanting to become teachers within our school system. Over the course of the year, I completed 300+ hours in two different special education settings, and I loved it. I was just over the moon.

I came into college as a special education major, and I was just so excited. Things happened, and I changed my major, in the middle of the semester, to English. But wait. The more rational side of me began to think a little harder. It's really hard to get a job with an English degree with career advancement without a graduate degree, and everyone knows I wasn't going to be in school forever. I just didn't have time.

Since I was still enrolled in the introductory education courses, I had to observe in a special education setting. Unfortunately, the only setting that was near enough for me to get to without the ability to drive was an early college experience that is funded for middle and high school students who are classified as low-income. Now that I think about it, that setting wouldn't have been bad, but I wanted something that had a little more to do with special education since that was the field that I had wanted so desperately to pursue. A good friend I've made since college is a music therapy major, and she leads sessions weekly for adults with developmental disabilities on campus.

Perfect! Just what I needed! While there, I discovered that I knew someone special. Read that story if you're interested.

After declaring a music therapy major, I began to realize that things had gotten a little too physical for my taste and abilities, regrettably.

All the while, my best friend was at another university in Big City, Georgia, studying biology and chemistry and taking on a fellowship with the biology department head at her school. Knowing this via Facebook, it was all I could do but be proud of her, love her, and admire her intelligence.

Meanwhile, Dr. Brian McMichael, McDoc, a resident physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, found my blog and connected with me via Facebook and Twitter. Thus, the candle was list once more, and the flame was no longer smoldering, I knew. Without a shadow of a doubt. I am going to become a doctor.

This past weekend, I had the chance to sit down and have a nice phone conversation with my best friend about our goals in medicine. She is very well aware of my struggles with math and with science; however, she understands that successes are never discovered unless attempted. She also understands that for me, it's not about academics.

Our story is a story of the power of friendship and the strength of the bond of medicine, and I am the luckiest girl in the world to have such caring, understanding friends like my best friend!

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