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!