February — it’s kind of a gross month. No offense to anyone that really likes it, but to me, you’re in the real dregs of winter. Now I don’t mean that in the sense like it’s almost done and over, similar to the dregs you find after almost finishing a good cup of coffee, but more like “Ugh, coffee dregs that probably have gritty coffee grounds in it — I don’t want to drink that, gross.” Yep, that’s my general opinion of February.
If you’ve seen the weather for the Midwest in the last few days, it’s been pretty nasty. Cold (expected) and wet (expected, but really not appreciated). We had a bit of a winter storm that dropped 7ish inches of snow starting late on Thursday night and the sidewalks and countless snowed in cars sure show it. Needless to say, I’m pretty thrilled it’s the weekend and have spent a rather large proportion of my time at home. Ingrid seems to be okay with that and has taken to a new habit of demanding affection at less than perfect times. It’s definitely a good thing she’s cute.
But enough weather/season talk… We started our Pulmonary Module two weeks ago and I have to admit, it’s exponentially more enjoyable than cardio was. We’ve had some amazing teachers for both organ systems, but I definitely connect more with pulm — not that I understand all of it, but it seems like much less of a chore to try and figure things out. But if I’m honest, I think my enjoyment of and connection to pulm is for mostly personal reasons. They say experience is life’s best teacher, and I kind of think the same holds true for learning medicine.
These last two weeks of lecture have brought about a lot of reminders and stirred up quite a few memories. To most, an example given by a lecturer to explain various blood gas concentrations in a patient that is on a mechanical ventilator (a machine that breathes for you) is simply that, an example. To me, its a flashback. A flashback to personally being on a ventilator, connected to endless tubes going to all these different machines, controlling the inspirations and exhalations of my body down to the last milliliter of air. I will say, learning how seemingly minor changes in ventilator settings can dramatically alter the physiology of the body — it’s a bit overwhelming to know that five years ago, I was that patient.
Sure, every day there are little reminders of those scary, don’t know what’s gonna happen next moments from early injury phase, way back when. A glance in the mirror and I see the divot between my collarbones from where my tracheostomy sat. I raise my left arm in the shower to wash my hair and glance down and see the scar from where my chest tube was inserted, removed, and then reinserted (and removed) when my lung decided it really had no intentions of staying inflated. Little things, little scars, little marks — a map of some of my more traumatic life experiences for anyone to see laid out on my skin.
Those little reminders exist, but I don’t think I spend much time consciously recognizing their presence like I once did. My injury was a while ago, the memories are dulled, the edges faded and a little worn. So I guess, when reminders are presented so obviously in a situation where you’re trying to soak in and learn as much as you possibly can, there’s a different response. I guess it’s something akin to nostalgia — but there are many more emotions attached to that feeling than just warm fuzzies. Some anger, a bit of exhaustion, maybe sadness that the memories even have to exist — but also a lot of gratitude in no longer being in that time and to have had so many wonderful people supporting, caring for me, and helping me to make it (vibrantly, might I add) to February 11, 2018.
There are aspects of medicine where you try and are maybe even encouraged to disconnect yourself. Don’t feel, just do. I’m sure it’s necessary in countless contexts, but sometimes I think recognizing the impact of a treatment, an intervention, a situation has on an individual is what makes medicine the human art form that it is.
So where does that leave things? Yea, I’m not sure.
I guess me and my scars will just keep plugging along on this med school journey with an even greater appreciation of what they mean.