Madam Medicine

Madame, my love, the first day I met you my eyes could not seem to turn away. I asked around for your number, and it read P-R-E M-E-D. I was happy in love, and all nights I prayed to God that one day I might have you in my arms. I thought you would never give me the time of day at first, but to my surprise, we struck the right cord on our first conversation, leading to our very first date. From there, we went on a few more dates—Organic Chemistry, Genetics and Biochemistry just to name a few. I thought to myself, “These were pretty expensive restaurants.” However, it was all worth it: each day, I felt myself growing closer to you.

After getting to know each other, the “define the relationship,” moment arrived, and sweetheart, you knew I wanted much more. You doubted my intentions, but I made it clear that I was sold. From then on, I worked long and hard hours to purchase that ring. I had never done this before, so I went to different people—one named Kaplan and a weird guy named Exam Crackers—who enlightened me on what it took to purchase the right ring. Even though their advice placed a few holes in my pockets, I was willing to bear those holes to have you in my arms one day. I vividly remember the day I went to the MCAT jewelry store to purchase the ring; boy, it was a tough day. The prices I saw broke me into a sweat, but then I remembered how beautiful you were. I thought you deserved it all, so I aimed high.

Proposal day came 30 days later. My palms were sweaty, and I had no clue what you were going to say. I thought to myself “Should I invite my family and friends to witness the proposal?” but then again what if you said “no”? My mind was in a whirlwind, and my stomach was filled with butterflies. At 4:55 pm that faithful day, I looked you in the eyes with such love. I got on one knee and opened the box (aamc.org). To my joy, before I opened the box, you screamed “Yes, yes!” We both cried and immediately began planning the best day of our lives.

We planned it for over a year. Oh, what a treacherous process! We met with different venue owners here and there, but most were already booked or too expensive. I began to panic, hoping that one would be just the right fit for us. On November 15th, we received the great news that we had a venue! Everything was finally coming into place—we had a wedding on the way.

Then it came. I will never forget July 27th, with all our family, friends and well-wishers seated to witness our great union. I don’t even remember who was to my left or to my right—all I could think of was you. Unlike other ceremonies, I walked down the aisle toward you, and the sight was breathtaking. Immaculate in white, you had neither a spot nor a blemish. I felt like I was in heaven, clearly the luckiest person alive. The time came when before God and man, we became one and that marked the happiest day of my life. I didn’t hesitate to show you off to my family and friends; we took many pictures together as the “dream couple.”

That night and many nights after, we did not withhold from intimacy as my fingers glazed through each page of the textbook, and truthfully, you looked even more beautiful. However, weeks following, your love began to feel a little overwhelming as well. I dreamt about you every night, and you were the topic of almost all my conversations. The truth is, as married life progressed, some days were fine, but others were not so much.

All the same, I continued in awe of you, thankful that you let me into your courts. By this time, we were with each other all day long, without a second to spare. Even with that, the dreaded day came when you told me that you were unsure if I loved you enough. “What???” You asked me a ton of questions, and I answered to the best of my knowledge. Sometimes when you had these fits, I did well in assuring you of my love. Other days, I just failed and needed to brush up my skills. I went to every marriage counselor I could find: Dr. Hairrell, Dr. Chen, Dr. Chico—the list goes on. Although time consuming, it greatly helped our relationship, and I was content. Sometimes, you still pouted when I went to football games or hung out with my buddies, but I was always quick to come back home to caress your beautiful hair of Anatomy and Histology, epithelial layer by epithelial layer.

We got over those hurdles, but I still had one last person to meet in the family: PaPaw Robbins. I didn’t know what to make of him. His first statement as he shook my sweaty palms was “You will never get rid of me, son!” I came to learn that he wasn’t joking. As the days passed, I needed him even more and I realized that he was the only person that truly had the keys to every chamber of your heart. During our visits to the nursing home, I noticed that you lit up in his presence in ways that I had never seen before. With that, I told myself “I need to learn PaPaw’s secret to getting to her heart.”

I took a trip to the nursing home alone in order for us to have private chat. Before I could finish explaining all of the struggles we had in our few months of marriage, he stopped me. He turned his gray-filled head and asked “Do you know her love languages?” He leaned forward and said, “To get to a woman’s heart, you must tread slowly but steadily. Each person is different, and you must learn how she loves and receives love. Being her grandfather, I have a few thoughts on how she might receive love. Activities and sweet words in Neurology, Hematology, and Respiratory are few that I have noticed. I am sure there are more, but if you take the time to learn how she wants to be cared for, you will be able show her love.”

All this was foreign to me. It was if I were I learning a different language, and quite frankly, it was frightening. Doubt overwhelmed my mind. Would I ever learn to speak to your standards? Did I have the ability to quench the thirst of your heart? It would not be easy, but I have never and will never shy away from any challenge that would prove my love to you. After all, “Happy wife, happy life” is my motto.

Our anniversary is coming up, and I plan to use PaPaw’s advice to keep you in my arms. Sweetheart, my greatest desire is to hear you say, “yes” again when we renew our vows this anniversary. I see a bright future ahead of us, but you must agree to take this STEP with me. Each STEP 1, 2, 3, and whatever lies ahead. I know we have already been through a lot, but please don’t let me go. Please renew our vows when the time is nigh. Like iron sharpens iron, you have refined me, and to me, your presence is priceless. I will work till my last breath to show you my love. Until then, always know that my heart will never cease to sing “Madame Medicine, Madame Medicine.”

By Martha Teke, MSII

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Our First Patient

It took hours to dig our hands into her spine
layers of skin and aches avalanched onto body frame
We thanked her for offering her limbs
as we carved a path through their arterial geography
then marveled at the sight of her ocular muscles strapped and reigned, armed for spectation

The sight of her hands quietly shocking, every time
we opened the titanium box
for they were her personhood contained in ten delicate projections
Everyday a new discovery bloomed, a boldface term, a nerve,
undressing amidst the chemical bouquet of formaldehyde

How could I thank you,
asleep in your rectangular slumber
Though I cried, though I ached, though I paced, though I smiled
I knew you only by soft pink nails and laugh lines
I wondered who you loved, what you craved
as I read your heart, open, bivalved like a book

You were more than an instrument, a textbook, a manual, a dissection
I carry you with me in my medicine bag
You are in the familiar drumming heard behind the stethoscope,
in every handshake of introduction
as I address every patient,
I reopen the titanium box again and again

by Krystha Cantu, MSII

The Day I lost My Brother

Pushing and shoving
Struggling to escape the madness
Two tiny figures feel insignificant against a ceaseless mass
One Cold Night
All it takes to become numb inside

Fighting to stay standing
Grasping, clinging, never letting go
Responsibility suppressing panic
Mockingly the crowd cheers
One Cold Night

Dodging, swerving, rushing
Sounds of laughter etched into memory
A need to escape the crowd
Stumbling, falling, cold surges through
All it takes to become numb inside

Panic—fear grabs hold, overruling reason
Tastes of filth, mud and sweat never to be forgotten
The grip is broken, one tiny figure rises, alone
Petrified he screams—lungs giving out
One Cold Night

Thousands pass, no one stops
Spine tingling, tears stream down
Frantic searching
Nothing but distorted noise, madness and laughter
All it takes to become numb inside

The night at the carnival
Burned into memory
Surging sadness, a gaping hole inside
The day I lost my brother
One cold night
All it took to feel numb inside

By: Marcus Zaayman, MSII

Medical School Student Compartment Syndrome

Medical students, or “baby docs” as we are affectionately called, can be very demanding and selfish. I am speaking from my own personal experience, of course. I would never dream to make blanket statements about future colleagues and myself if I were not one hundred percent sure of the statement’s validity. However, thinking about the rigors, trials, and tribulations that one must go through in order to be granted the title MD, it makes sense why we behave in such a manner. Recently I have been ruminating on this subject in the light of my own personal relationships and the toll that my pre-clinical training has taken on them. Suffice it to say that if the tables were turned and I was on the receiving end of such demands, I would probably not have remained as close to the giver of these demands. This realization has lead me to an obvious, yet personally startling, conclusion: our personal confidants—be them spouses, significant others, parents, siblings, or simply friends—go through all the rigors of medical school training without any of the benefits at the end. After all, I will be the one receiving the title upon graduation, not my fiancée. Yet she is the one who stands by my side through every block, OSCE, and licensing exam. This leaves me with one question: What am I doing to insure that those relationships I hold near and dear do not end due to the rigors of my training?

Many of my colleagues have spoken to me about keeping their “med school lives” separate from their personal lives. I applaud those who are able to make such a black-and-white distinction and find it applicable to their lives. I, on the other hand, have had quite a difficult time compartmentalizing my professional training into a neat and tidy little box that I open and close only Monday through Friday from the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For me, it is a little bit messier. I find myself juggling cooking and enjoying dinner with my fiancée in between making outlines and reviewing that day’s lectures. During weekends at home, I find myself waking up at previously unheard of hours in order to get a few extra studying hours in before trying to make a quick about-face in my demeanor and focus totally on my family. In word, I struggle handling where the training ends and my personal relationships begin. Perhaps I am the only medical school student out there who feels that this constant struggle in their lives, but I believe that it is an all too common occurrence.

So, what am I doing to maintain these relationships that are, in my opinion, the lifeblood of human existence? Truth be told, probably not enough. I prioritize my training over my family from time to time. I duck out of responsibilities and potentially rejuvenating personal days so that I can spend time with my books and studying resources. When I have a difficult time understanding a concept taught to me in lecture, I babble about the difficulties of my training to those who know all too well how difficult the training really is because they live the training through me. Even worse, sometimes I express that I need them to be there for me unconditionally when I myself am unwilling to be there unconditionally for them.

So what is my answer, then, for this behavior? What words of wisdom do I have for the up-and-coming medical students so they do not stumble into the pitfalls of personal relationships that I have? In short, I do not have an answer. I do not have any wisdom to offer on the subject. All I can do is count my blessings that I have such wonderful support systems in my family, friends, and fiancée and that they are able to weather the storm of medical school with me. The only thing that I do know is that I always try my hardest to be as “normal” as possible. I often fail in my normality and become something akin to a needy child (perhaps that is why they refer to us as “baby docs”), but the important thing is that I try.

I am not even close to perfect in my relationships with those that I hold most dear. However, I am honest with them, and for them, that honesty is enough. Hopefully as I move forward in my training I will better learn to compartmentalize this aspect of my life in a neat little box that fits between business hours. I’m not at that point yet, but that is okay— babies have to learn to crawl before they can walk or run.

 

By W. Jacob Cobb, MSII

Wonderings of a Restless Soul

Ceaselessly we dream of a different life
One of meaning and awe
Trying to find the quiet hero in us all
In silent slumber it awaits
Eventually to be forgotten
Amidst the daydreams of youth
Confined to the wonderings of a restless soul

How we want to be remembered is how we should live
The swan song of life, silent echoes in time
The footprints that we leave behind
What we do defines us
What we do not—never is
Ever restless we wonder…

By: Marcus Zaayman, MSII