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Abs of Steel

Want to know a secret?

I am afraid of needles.  I feel palpitations when I see them, and I have to take slow, deep breaths to prevent a full-blown panic attack from ensuing. Want to know another secret? I also don’t like the sight of blood; I can’t stand the gurgling sounds when a patient is being suctioned, and I almost lose my lunch at the sight and sound of someone losing their lunch. You’re probably wondering what I get asked weekly, “How are you going to become a doctor?” The answer is simple: I will just have to deal with it.

Reading about certain conditions or illnesses is far different from staring them in the face.  It is almost expected for medical students to release some low-toned groans or grunts at the sight of pathologic images during a lecture, but completely unacceptable to behave this way in front of a patient. I can recall three occasions in which bodily fluids were over-stimulating my area postrema containing my vomiting center.

One incident was a beautiful nightmare. I was helping an OB nurse move a patient to the delivery bed.  In front of me and on top of my partially covered shoes, dropped a little boy and lots of fluids that had nowhere to go but down. I could not run out of the room because the mom was squeezing my hand tightly as she delivered her son who literally fell onto the bed in front of me!  However, I am embarrassed to say, that I have excused myself from a situation in which I would not have preferred to have awakened from a supine position, looking up into my attending’s and colleagues’ faces, asking, “Are you all right?”

CPR classes are required prior to beginning rotations.  I certainly wish there was a brochure, video, or crash course on how to prepare for dealing with the grotesque side of medicine. As time has progressed, I have mentally prepared myself before entering patients’ rooms. I remain focused on my interview questions and physical examination. I take slow breaths and repeat, ”You better not run out and you better not pass out.”  This new regimen has worked and I am becoming desensitized to the realities of medicine, but don’t I wish I had abs of steel!

by Chinwe Okeke, Class of 2011