By the time you finish reading this sentence this moment will be over. That seems rather obvious but to we tend to pay little attention to it. Something one learns quickly in medicine is that every instance in life is finite. The one thing we will never invent a cure for is time. No matter how many patients I see in a day, or how many stickers I give out, that clock on the wall continues to tick away.
|Artwork by Saleh Heneidi|
On a rare San Diego rainy day in December, the second hand of the clock continued to tick away when I walked in to see a 4-year old patient. While chewing down a McDonald’s hash brown patty, he looked at me and said, “rise, my royal chimp!” I responded, “Doth thou fancy a vaccine?” He remained unfazed and continued to gobble his breakfast.
Time also moved right along until just a few days ago when I happened to see another 4 year old. He had just finished doing his Snellen eye exam (the chart above). I was about to examine him and so I went into my usual routine of asking, “Do you know where your heart is?” He responded, “Here’s my heart,” (pointing to his chest), “here’s the circle” (pointing to his belly button), “and here’s the star” (as he pointed towards his private area). I had no comment to this response in real life, and so I will have no response to the comment on this blog. Sometimes awkward silence is the best response, or maybe the only response I can think of.
Even though none of us can stop that clock on the wall, there are certainly moments in life where time comes to a standstill. In medicine certain events will forever change your own personal view on life, and will remain etched in your memory. Somewhere along my countless hours of work during residency, I was working a shift in the pediatric ER. An 8 year old came in with what seemed like a common cold. However, since his symptoms had lasted for about a month, we decided to check some basic blood counts as a precaution. His white blood cell count was greater than 100,000 (normal is between 5-15,000). The poor kid had leukemia, and with counts like that the odds weren’t in his favor. As I was explaining the test results to the family, the 8 year old looked at me and asked, “Am I going to die?” Nothing will ever train you to answer that question, and nothing will ever erase that memory.
The big takeaway for me from all of these experiences whether goofy, or tear-inducing, is that time is precious. Everyday in medicine you learn that what was normal yesterday could be much different tomorrow. Appreciate every second.
There are days in pediatrics where I hate life. It seems like I’ve seen 700 babies and every patient is annoyed because I’m running late (trust me, I don’t like being late either). But at the end of it all, I sit down and I write these words and I am grateful. I have patients who grow up and say they want to be like me … and I make them shake my hand and agree to work for me in 25 years for 10 dollars an hour.
I hope I stay blessed enough to see that day.
Dr Ahmad Bailony is a San Diego native and a board certified pediatrician at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns. He is a partner at Bailony Pediatrics in Chula Vista. To follow his monthly blog posts, follow him at http://bolognamd.blogspot.com/