Small boy's heart defect and its treatment have affected him and our family in some very obvious and dramatic ways. They have also affected me more obliquely: they have altered the course of my professional life.
After Small boy's initial diagnosis, I started learning as much as I could about his particular heart defect and about heart function in general. A few years later, when it became obvious that my foray into science writing was ill-timed and I decided to go back to teaching, I applied for jobs teaching Anatomy & Physiology. Although I had not taught those courses before, I was able to give a really good job talk based on what I had learned about the heart. I got hired.
During Small boy's treatment, starting with his prenatal diagnosis, I encountered physicians doing useful, interesting things. As a healthy child and young adult, I saw my annual trip to the doctor as a bit silly. The doctors who continue to care for my son make a very real difference in his life, and mine. During our many visits to the clinic and hospital, I had the chance to observe what doctors do on a daily basis and how they go about doing it--and I became interested. The profession began to look both engaging and enjoyable as well as useful.
After a few years of teaching Anatomy and Physiology, I began to get jealous of my students....most of whom were going on to apply what they learned in my classes as nurses.
I also realized that without more schooling, I would have neither the job security nor the financial means to adequately care for my son, should I become the sole provider in our family.
All of these factors, as well as many others, led me to apply to medical school a few years ago.
Two weeks ago, I started classes.
As I have walked through the children's hospital to my classroom in the morning during the past weeks, I have found myself tearing up. Before last week, I didn't understand what I was getting into (and I still now only see some of the bare outlines of what this new venture will mean in my life). Before last week, I thought people went to medical school to learn how to be a doctor. Last week, I realized that when you go to medical school you don't learn how to become a doctor, when you go to medical school, you actually become a doctor. Those two things are very different. Very different, indeed.
Last night, it finally hit home that during my training and afterwards:
I will be with people when they are born.
I will be with people when they die.
I will be with people when they face some of the most excruciating decisions of their lives.
I will witness, and in some cases, be a part of, some of the most intimate and personal details of people's lives.
It is a bit much to absorb.