Another year has slipped by, taking with it a massive amount of opportunity for reflection, introspection, observation, etc. The lack of verbal expression on my part is not for lack of material. I could write a novel–a long novel– about all the things that have happened in the past several years, and perhaps one day I will. I should put it this way: my work and my life are so rich and full that there isn’t a moment to sit and think about what is actually happening to me. I do feel, however, that if I don’t get back into my blog, the years will pass and I will regret not documenting something, somewhere. I seem to have a knack for going through important life changes all at once, whereas a sane person would wait for each in its turn. I was finishing college and applying to medical school as I entered into married life. I had my first child as I started the ridiculous experience of being a med student. My second baby arrived during the beginning of intern year. This is how I find myself now: a doctor, a student, a mother, a wife.
Every physician has patients that they will always remember, or can never forget. I have written about several before: the brave gentleman with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and his wise-eyed wife. The man with AIDS who cried in clinic for passing on his disease–and AIDS related nephropathy–to his partner. The four year old with a hypo-plastic left heart who collapsed and died in the CVICU, with the balloons and toys from the Child Life program still piled at the bottom of his bed.
I have another face, another name, to add to my slowly growing list. He had a severe form of a muscle disease, and he was a smart, bright young man who had many ambitions despite his limitations. The details of my interactions with him are beside the point, because the reason I will remember him is the same reason I posted the picture of the carousel ride my daughter and I took the other day. I will remember him because when I said goodbye, after we had fixed his acute condition, it struck me that I was saying goodbye. People who have his disease do not improve in the normal fashion, and time is their enemy. Every year that passes their muscles weaken and stiffen even further, marching progressively forward from ambulation as a young child, to crutches, to wheelchair, to loss of swallowing, coughing, speaking, breathing. They will inevitably die in their late teens to early twenties of respiratory or cardiac failure, minds trapped within failing bodies. I know I will never seen him again; in the rare event that I do, it will not be a good thing. I was happy to see him leave our care so much better than he had arrived, but when I said my farewell I felt so strange looking him in the eye and saying the words. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dying man who knew what it meant to say goodbye to a stranger.
I suppose if you think about it, we are all on the same ride, more or less. I thank God daily for the ability to enjoy it, and I pray that that brave young man does too.