Coming into medical school I think many of us have an image in our head of all the great things we’ll get to do. In general most of them probably include a collage of things like saving lives, using defibrillators, performing surgery…you know, TV medical drama-esque stuff.
In reality, medical students very rarely save anyone’s life and generally the extent of our surgical experience stops at holding bladder blades and retractors.
That’s not to say that we are not sometimes a very integral and important part of the healthcare team, only that it’s often in the patient’s best interest if we learn slowly. Fortunately for you all, that typically means starting with small things like sutures and staples, not being in charge of stopping a bleeding great artery or removing an infected appendix.
However, one relatively universal opportunity we get before giving up our “MS” designation is the chance to deliver a baby.
And by chance I mean, if you don’t deliver a baby you will not pass your Ob/Gyn clerkship.
So, last semester I got to deliver babies…with the help of some well-versed doctors, of course.
During my Ob/Gyn clerkship it was me, on several occasions, who handed a tiny little body to it’s exhausted mother as she took in the image of her child’s face for the first time. I was given the privilege to be the one who wiped a precious little face and whispered, “Look momma! A tiny baby boy…he is absolutely perfect!” while tears of happiness mixed with droplets of sweat and settled on her relieved cheeks.
Last semester I got to deliver babies. As it turns out that experience, one I never expected to be so supremely moved by, will soon become a part of my career. However, everyone doesn’t end up going into Obstetrics and Gynecology, but even so most remember their first experience with birth. Some will recall it as shocking or scary, others as bloody and jarring, but almost all will tell you it’s nothing short of amazing…even if they hate obstetrics.
There are few things we will distinctly remember from these years, but here’s a few experiences (some wonderful, others painfully heart-wrenching) that I will never forget:
- My very first patient.
- My first patient who died (who also happened to be my very first patient).
- Witnessing the preterm delivery of a baby at just 24 weeks gestation.
- My first day in the OR and how lost I was scrubbing in.
- Suturing something other than a pig’s foot for the first time.
- Finding fetal heart tones for the first time.
- The deafening silence of not finding fetal heart tones when they should be there.
- How quickly blood can fill an abdomen.
- Seeing a patient’s blood pressure drop to 45/?? on the monitor during surgery.
- My first patient who miscarried.
- My first experience with serious, life-threatening trauma.
- Holding a patient’s hand as they were told they had cancer.
- Watching major abdominal surgery on a preterm baby <6 lbs.
- Holding the hand of a woman who had experienced a horrifying tragedy.
- Talking with a truly manic patient for the first time.
- Watching an infertility couple cry at the site of their baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound.
There are probably so many more, but these are some of the things that have imprinted themselves on my brain forever. These are experiences I carry with me – some I hope to experience many more times, others the opposite – all I hope have made me a more caring, compassionate future doctor.