Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fear, Tortillas and Friends

OTS Global Health Fall 2014
Blog Post 3

Fear, Tortillas, and Friends

            Everyone always tells me it is a blessing to know what I want to do in life. While my friends struggle to choose a major or career path – I have known for over fifteen years that I want to be a doctor. This means I know which classes I have to take, what experiences I must obtain, and ultimately the next ten years of my life are planned out for me. Usually when someone tells me I'm lucky I respond "I guess," because I don't want to tell them what I really think – that I'm terrified. Terrified I won't be good enough, get into medical school, that I'll be a bad doctor, or not have enough time for family life. I'm scared because the one thing I want to do with my life I actually might not be strong or smart enough to do, and I have absolutely no control over that.
            I try not to dwell on these quite troubling thoughts, so rather I dedicate myself to my studies and work. I love the classes I have taken and the prospect of getting into medical school makes me grin like a teenager who thinks they're in love. I jump at every chance I get to go into a hospital because for me it feels like looking into the future. And this past week, that is just what I did in Nicaragua – just got in the setting I would have expected.
            Last week we worked with VIDA, a volunteer company that brings interested students to medical clinics in various sites in Central America. While there I got to wear scrubs, interview patients, take vital signs, and learn about different medical conditions. Problems ranged from wanting multivitamins to needing a specialist referral for a surgery. A few of my favorite experiences have since influenced this fear I have for my future.
            One such experience was when I correctly diagnosed a patient with hypertension. Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. The entire week I struggled with taking vitals – including blood pressure – not because I was doing it wrong but because I overthought it and questioned my ability. Nevertheless, on the last day of clinics I took a blood pressure of 210/110. To double check I took it again and got the same result. When the doctor later came to see my patient he confirmed my measurements. While it is sad that this man has hypertension I was relieved because I had completed my first accurate medical exam. Thinking and hoping that I could do it all this time, and not knowing, was scary. And while I have much to learn, I am slightly less terrified.
            The second experience that stuck out to me was interviewing a tortilla maker and her daughter. I honestly cannot remember their medical reasons for coming in, but while I was collecting their prescriptions, a coworker asked them about themselves and discovered the mother was a tortilla worker. We chatted and ultimately said our goodbyes. Ten minutes later the daughter returned and brought us fresh tortillas a thank you gift for seeing them. I haven't felt so touched in a very long time.
            While my thoughts still run wild about the endless possibilities of what lies in my future, my time in Nicaragua confirms to me my incredible enjoyment for medicine and renews my determination. I may be terrified, but I'm also terribly excited.

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