Thursday, 3 April 2014

That Post-Doctoral Feeling

When I was a kid, I used to believe that doctors were these invincible, all-knowing warriors made of stone and marble, with exteriors that were impermeable to pressure, stress or strain, and with interiors that were solid ice that could never melt. Doctors were always super cool, in every sense of the term.
They knew every answer to every problem that mankind could possibly face, and they were part of the solution, unlike the rest of the population, which stood with folded hands, heads bowed low, helplessly being dragged by disease and maladies into being part of the problem. The rest of the population didn't have the power or the ability to stare at sickness in the face and drive it away with a syringe and some tablets. They were these mute lab rats that the various pathogens chose to prey on. The doctors killed these evil microbes and ensured the victory of good over evil.
That's what I believed as a little girl. Very innocently, I romanticized doctors and a medical education, and turned it into this fantastical tale of knights in shining doctoral armors that were brave and charming and perfect, and saved the world from pain and suffering.
And then I spent five years in dental school, learning the secrets of the human body, the lengths of roots of teeth, what pain scientifically is supposed to be, what happens when one overdoses on codeine, what broad-spectrum antibiotics are, how to treat intraoral abscesses, and most importantly, what doctors are really like.

The entire fairy tale I'd conjured up in my hyperactive mind suddenly fell flat on its face, ungracefully and unattractively, pumping most of that magic dust out of my silly childhood epiphany. This hallowed two-letter prefix was barely enough to make anyone a "nice" human being. I encountered all kinds of crazy heartless, unsympathetic, perverted bastards who bore fancy degrees that added weight to their resume, but not to their character. I thought these encounters were hugely revealing, because they brought doctors down from this giant golden pedestal I'd erected for them in my head. They were now just the same to me as any other regular Joe, except that they knew which arteries supplied the brain and which leukocytes are elevated in worm infestations. Stripped of that glamorous armor that I'd always viewed them in, they seemed slightly less heroic, and slightly more human to me.

Not every Sunday is brilliant just because it's a holiday, and not all doctors are great just because they're doctors.

But it is in times of trouble, when you are on the other side of the stream, when the tables are turned, and someone you love more than you love your own self turns into the patient, the lab rat on which some mysterious microbe is feeding on-that's when you turn into this meek little lamb that's too scared to even breathe, even if you bear the aforementioned two-lettered prefix. You just want someone to treat your favorite person and make the illness disappear like it was never there.

Such instances leave you with grey hair, dark circles and sleepless nights plagued with worry; but they also teach you one supremely important life-lesson.
You learn, through suffering, what true love feels like; you learn that there is no drug more potent or more concentrated than this love that is automatically drawing out a hurried, heartfelt prayer to your lips for the speedy recovery of your loved one.

I was at a diagnostic center just the other day picking up some lab reports for my mother when I looked around and it hit me, for possibly the millionth time in my life, how many sick people there truly are in the world. We have every second person in the neighborhood studying business or becoming an engineer, but how many kids do you see studying medicine these days?

Despite my very conflicting views, I shall end this post by saying how proud I am that I am privy to the secrets of this bag of bones that God devised. It truly is one heck of a machine. It's eerily daunting to study medicine, but it's a fact that once you enter this mad, mad world, you will never be the same. There will always be this shiny red line that flickers every second separating human beings into doctors and non-doctors. And perhaps my childhood belief that doctors are demigods wasn't complete trash, just aiming a bit too high.

Doctors aren't demigods or knights in shining armor; good or bad, they're doctors, and perhaps that's big enough anyway.

1 comment:

  1. This is definitely one of your best posts.....

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