Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hospital Lessons

My freshmen year in college, my major was officially "undeclared." But when people asked, I would follow, "Technically, I'm undeclared" with "but I'm going pre-med." Everyone I knew was pre-med (or so they thought), except for the kids that were declared art majors or design majors, the same ones who took to loudly discussing the subthemes and cinematography of David Lynch's disturbing Blue Velvet and who considered video clips of people eating feces to be highly artistic social commentary. I think pre-med was such a popular notion for the undeclared to claim because the career path following it was so clear cut: first you would be pre-med, then you'd major in some form of biology, you'd attend med school and eventually become a doctor.

It's odd to think that I was asked at age 18 to decide what I wanted to learn and what professional occupation I eventually wanted to take up. Especially considering that not even a year before that, the highlight of my year was planning Senior Cut Day with my friends (we planned a trip to Taco Bell and then we wildly walked the streets of Santa Cruz. We didn't drink and we didn't smoke but I don't think any of us wore sunscreen that day because, by golly, we were rebels!)

It soon became evident that I did not like pre-med classes. (It might have had something to do with the fact that I was not so good at them, but that is just one small, minor, insignificant theory.) The summer after freshmen year, I came back home to San Jose. I picked up the UCLA catalogue and sat hunched over it on my bed. For the next few hours, I thumbed through the black and white pages and ran my fingers over each of the majors the school offered. As my finger slid past each one, I read it out loud and envisioned myself in the major. Finally, two felt good to me and it was those two that I majored in: economics and psychology. Turns out these were a much better fit, and I was happy.

Until recently. Recently, with Alan's "short" hospital stay turning into a week long visit, I wish I had a medical background. I wish I knew why he can't eat anything and what could be done about his intestinal blockage. I imagine the pieces of lettuce he ate in his In 'n' Out burger (the ones I know he secretly suspects blocked his intestines) and I imagine them creating a seal, preventing anything from properly traveling through his digestive tract. I would have a better solution than sticking a tube down his throat to suction out his Jamba Juice. My solution would be better because after the tube would be removed, he wouldn't continue to be blocked. And I definitely would not tell him he would be released in 2, 3 days, only to have him stay for 9 days and counting.

Aside from wishing I might have tried harder in biology (or at the very least, wishing I had paid more attention to how the "House" team deduces all their brilliant, medical solutions), Alan's hospital visits have taught me a few very important lessons.

1) Do not get cancer. I know no one wants to get cancer, and sometimes it just cannot be helped how one's cells want to mutate or express themselves, so maybe I should rephrase this lesson as Do everything you can to decrease your risk of developing cancer. Visit the doctor early on if you think something might be wrong (hint (and don't be embarrassed if you need this hint because some people do): something might be wrong if blood is coming out from places where it normally has not come out from in the past or if you feel nauseous for a good, solid month for no good reason).

Alan's post-surgery recovery has been hard, really hard. Like a solid month spent in a hospital room hard. But all that time spent in the hospital has also enlightened me to lesson 2.

2) Never ever ride a motorcycle. The number of hospital roommates Alan has had who have suffered serious injuries from motorcycle accidents is beyond belief. One day, we stepped outside the hospital to find the cutest basset hound sitting on the steps with his owner. The basset hound was wearing a mini vest and because we are curious people, we stopped to ask the owner what his dog's vest was for. The man looked at me and said, "He is a therapy dog. I was in a motorcycle accident and I died two times. Both times they brought me back to life. But because of that now I am a little bit dumb and this dog helps me meet friends because people come by to pet him. I think he is beautiful." It was shocking to hear such a candid response and I almost wanted to help him revise it so that he could make friends in a more natural manner, but that is a very hard thing to suggest to someone, let alone a complete stranger, so we didn't say anything and moved along quietly with crashing motorcycle images firing off in our heads.


the rider said...

I came across your blog because you made blogs of note, congratulations and "NO I am not jealous!" You cannot say "Never ride a motorcycle."
For the uninformed people, riding a motorcycle is the best form of freedom on the open road that there is, there is nothing like it and while there is the ever present possibility of a traumatic accident, it is far outweighed by the sheer pleasure. I have lost friends and have had friends badly injured but I will ride for as long as I can. Life on two wheels is life lived to the extreme!

Katherine said...

I know you wrote this post several days ago ,and may not see this comment, but that's irrelevant.

I 100% agree! NEVER ride a motorcycle. It's not "if" you crash, it's just "when" you crash. Every single person I know who has owned a motorcycle has been in a significant crash.

And I am a person who pre-med continued to sound good to for such a long time, that now I'm a doctor.

Let me tell you...ignorance is bliss.

High Desert Harry said...

That was a touching story. I liked it! High Desert Harry

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Sobrina Tung said...

Katherine, it's good to meet another very risk averse person :) How awesome that you are now a doctor! Can you please come work at Valley Med and tell the dr's there how to fix my boyfriend?

Wuthering said...

*i won't let my boyfriend ride a motorcycle. my uncle was handicapped from years of riding.

I hope your friend has a good recovery and I have to say your words sound so beautiful.

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anastamosis said...

Hi Sobrina,
I'm so happy to have stumbled across your blog (well, I suppose stumble isn't quite accurate when your blog was prominently displayed on the Blogger homepage!). Your writing is filled with such humor and grace, especially when speaking about such a difficult situation. Hope that you and Alan continue to see improvement. I'm a third-year medical student and have seen so much in the hospital that is good, and so much that is not-so-good, and it's always refreshing to hear the perspective of someone outside the hospital system. I'm looking forward to reading more!


P.S. Complete agreement on not riding motorcycles. Pretty much every shift that I'm in the emergency department, I see a motorcyclist come in with significant injuries and brain trauma. One has died.

Angela Sawyers Points of View said...

I found your blog upon starting my own to branch into a community who appreciates written word. Your blog was one of the first I located to read. I have to say that your spirit and humor, your colorful way of saying things... I feel as if I know a little something about you. I appreciate your candid nature and the strength it takes to hold his hand when others would have run. You are a hero, young lady. Rock-On!

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