Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Faces That Dance Across My Mind

Is it normal to meditate and begin weeping quietly?

As I meditated today, the unforgettable faces of my patients flashed across my mind. Just like a merry-go-round, slowly rotating in circles, our conversations took form as words flew and led onto images which I thought I have long forgotten - the smallest gestures and the tiniest changes in facial expressions, which I did not see whilst in the middle of the encounter. Then I turned around and observed as the grim reaper rolled his dice. It was seemingly surreal, yet felt truest than ever. 

I see patients suffer due to pain or treatments everyday. Few years ago, I used to get comments from my peers about how I easily get overly involved with my patient's emotions, to an extent that it becomes unbearably unhealthy for the state of my mind. Hence from then I practise to not bring home the emotions from the healthcare setting, with which after tremendous mental effort, I have been successful in striking a balance between emotion control and empathy. I care for the patients so much that whether they are truly complaining or just whining, when others step back, I would always report it to the nurses and doctors, even if it was annoying or looks bad on me, simply because I don't want to miss out on any patients whom we could save. Today, I am able to watch a patient wince in pain without affecting my precision and capability at work, but that doesn't mean that I am unmoved. Whilst maintaining a professional demeanor, undeniably when a patient screams of pain, a part of me died inside. I don't fear death. I only fear my patients having to suffer needlessly, or dying without dignity.
The populations that garner my biggest concern are the psychiatric and the geriatric patients. 

People raise flags all the time claiming that all lives are equal. But media often screams law suits against Obstetricians but seldom about those to protect the lives and dignity of the elderly. We seem to have been acquainted with the perceived fact that while new lives equate with celebrations, it is "kind of"acceptable that old people die all the time. A doctor once said to me, "old people are aware that they are becoming forgetful but they did not seek for treatment until it is too late because they regard forgetfulness as just a process of aging." We are taking it for granted. On another hand, people tend to disrespect what an elderly wants. We have encountered so many situations in which the family members tried to convince doctors to hide the diagnosis from the patients who are begging to find out about their illnesses to plan about their will and funerals. The worst was to have family members fighting for money as their parent is put on ventilators at the verge of his demise.

I have said something like this before: Psychiatric patients live in a world contrastingly different from ours. They see patterns in numbers. They watch the rain pour with an air of melancholy as the sun glares. They hear voices in deafening silence. People deem them insane. But what if they are the ones who live in the real world? Who are we to judge that we are right and they are wrong? What if in truth we are the ones who live only in our minds but are deemed normal solely for the reason that we outnumber them? Give psychiatric patients our respect and empathy just like how we would to others. It is hard to live a life unrecognised by the world. 

The most significant issue regarding these patients is either their insanity nor their advanced ages. Instead, it is the consequence of how others treat them due to their perceived insanity and senility. However unbeknownst to us, we must be aware that they are vulnerably susceptible to abuse. So often do we forget that these people have a voice. Sometimes their lack of defence brings out the evilest of others. More often, we want to do the best for these patients, so much so that we forget to ask, "is this what you truly want?" This is the most important question a healthcare worker should ask. After all, who bears the repercussions of the chronic side effects? Who bears the effect of the stigma against them? Ultimately, who bears the pain? 

I have met many patients who have transformed my life: a prisoner, a police, a refugee, migrants, drug addicts, housewives, bankers etc. I watch them cry just as I celebrated their recovery. I thought that I have shaken away the images of their suffering faces, I thought they are already far behind me. However, despite my regular effort to separate emotions, I discovered that subconsciously these memories have crept up on me gradually and shaped who I am today. As I meditated, to my surprise, sadness did not come. What came in place was instead, a sense of void, an emotion hauntingly beautiful and more powerful than sadness - emptying yet satisfying.

It was not sadness. 
So I will never be able to understand why tears surged. 

From the beginning till now, I have never doubted that I will make a great doctor. I do have some flaws - too relaxed, sometimes too excitable. I can't deal with administrative work. I have little knowledge with how to deal with hierarchy. Nonetheless, I am improving, and I am happy about my progress. As some of you would have known, I am not your typical studious medical student. I travel all the time and rarely do I study. However, I am passionate about learning, I truly understand the meaning and importance of learning without boundaries, and I never do it blindly. Above all, I have experienced life from its lowest to highest- from busking on streets to wrapping myself in luxury, from sharing food with the homeless, conversing with slaves to fathoming the value of money. I am resilient, and I always have faith in my ability to overcome obstacles. There are still a lot more about humanity to be discovered, and I am willing to walk the world to meet and learn from people from all walks of life. I truly comprehend the fact that by the Hippocratic oath, all are equal. In the face of health and medicine, there are neither social classes nor genders. There are only humans as one, and this is a principle which I will hold on to dearly, for life.  

I would not be who I am today without y'all. So this one is for all of you. 💓

With this I say, "Some faces are to be forgotten, and only resurface upon recollection. Cheers to life!"

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