Today is day #11 of unemployment. I finished fellowship on June 30, and my freedom began. I've gone in to work a few times to do some liver biopsies. I've been studying 2-4 hours a day - my boards are in October. I've been sleeping in a bit, playing around, shopping. It's been fun.
I did some moonlighting last weekend. It was nice to be back in the hospital, rounding on the patients.
On patient was 19-20 years old, I forget exactly. He was diagnosed in his mid-teens with a genetic liver disease and got a liver transplant. Now, he's in the hospital after having gotten a round of chemo for a newly discovered leukemia. His immune system is literally at zero. Geez, I think, how much bad can one person get? I walk into his room, and he's not there. I walk back out, and this big guy attached to an IV pole is walking around with a surgical mask on. He asks if I'm looking for him, and I say that I am. He goes into his room, and he sits on his bed, taking his protective mask off now that he's in the confines of his own room with his own germs and no one else's.
He says he's doing fine. He was out doing laps for exercise. I listened to his heart and lungs, which all sounded fine. He hadn't had a fever in a few days, so I figured he was on the mend as far as his infection was concerned. His recent bone marrow biopsy looked clean, so one more was going to be done in 2 weeks. If that was clean, he was good to go - in remission, and able to get on with his life...albeit with frequent doctors visits.
We chatted for a bit, and he walked out with me, putting his mask back on. He said he was on lap 17 of 30, so he wanted to get back out there to finish. I said good bye, and told him I'd see him the following day. He thanked me and began back on his trek around the nursing stations.
I just smiled in disbelief. This was a kid who should be out playing basketball with his friends, sitting on the beach with his girlfriend, or just fooling around on his computer in his own room. He should be angry and frustrated about his situation. He has a liver from someone who died. He's getting toxic medications to wipe out his own bone marrow. He's at risk for infections every time he leaves his room or someone comes in. His life span, in all probability, isn't going to be what his best friend's is.
But, he was smiling and gracious, positive and determined. I don't know why I thought he'd be depressed. It's the only life he has, why would he spend it being miserable? You just keep going, right? Whether you miss your flight, crash your car or get diagnosed with cancer. We all come up against obstacles, and how we deal with them defines who we are. Sit down and pout or get up and keep going.
As I go through this transition period of the security of fellowship to the unknown world of being on my own, I hope I can have the tenacity that this young man has - the strength to keep getting up no matter how many times I get knocked down.