Medicine is a universally spoken language
Lately, there seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding the practice of medicine. From the staggering student debt, to the grueling hours as a resident, to the high rate of burn out, it sometimes feels as though this profession is constantly under attack. To be honest, I’ve threatened to quit medicine so many times over the last decade that it’s become somewhat of a family joke. I even went on a few interviews and was offered a starting salary that is 5 times what I make as a resident. So why do I continue to trek through this uncertain and often unforgiving territory when there are so many other options out there? Occasionally, I do it for the dramatic, blood-pumping, cinema-worthy moments. This past week, I was called to assist with an emergency c-section. The mother was only 28 weeks along but had severe pre-eclampsia, a condition characterized by dangerously high blood pressures that can rapidly progress to seizures and death, if left untreated. As I quickly scrubbed in, I sensed a palpable shift in the room. I turned around to see blood pouring out of the mother’s open abdomen, and watched as the appearance of shock in the eyes my fellow residents was quickly replaced with determination. The obstetrician murmured, “We have placental abruption” in a muted tone. This complication occurs when the placenta prematurely separates from the uterus, resulting in massive hemorrhage. It is a medical emergency for both the mother and the baby as they are rapidly deprived of precious oxygen. My heart sank as they struggled to deliver the infant, grasping for her slippery, blue, little legs. They handed her to me, gray, limp and motionless. I gently placed her tiny body on the table behind me while my senior resident listened to her chest, exclaiming excitedly, “We have a heartbeat!” Within 30 seconds, she was intubated, pink and on her way to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). While these types of experiences certainly leave a lasting impact, more often than not, I practice medicine for the seemingly insignificant, but perfectly punctuated, moments that pepper so many of my days. The summer after my first year of medical school, I went on a service-learning trip to Chiang Rai, Thailand with some students from my class. This part of Northern Thailand, known as the Golden Triangle, is infamous for its prevalence of child trafficking and sexually transmitted illnesses. Parents become addicted to opiates at a very young age, and often sell their children into slavery for as little as $3-$10.