Surgery #1 was 1987. Once I recovered from the drug-induced haze and made my way out of the physical therapy labs (around 7-8 years old), I had seen far too many medical staff. Yet, since they were all around me and concerned about me, naturally it made me curious about them. It was simply fascinating. Overwhelming, but fascinating for a kid brain. Example thought process as a kid in a hospital:
Who’s that lady? Why’s she got a mask on her head? Stetho-what? Heh, look at the dumb clown print on that guy’s shirt! How come so many of them have silly shirts? What are those cards hanging from everyone’s neck? What is that giant piece of metal? Is this a dungeon? Whoa I’m on a moving bed. Why don’t they use any orange or yellow lights around here? Everything is green or blue…weird. You want a sample from THERE? With THAT? Why? What’s the bag connected to anyway? What keeps going hisssss…hissssss…..hissssss? Oh, gotta keep still now. Concentrate… hold it… hold it… okay is this over yet? Why am I in a tube? What’s the loud racket? Jeez they need better workers in here or something. Ooooh computer screen looks like the future! That’s me up there? Don’t look like it! I’m not a weird, blurry, blue and white outline… Weird people. White coats. Why not red or blue? Smells funny in here. Who are you? And-hey! You know you can ask before grabbing an arm! Clipboard? What are you writing down? Is it bad? Where do you walk away to when you leave the room? And how come it takes like FOREVER for you to come back again? Cool squiggly zig zag green line on the little TV. They have really bad TV’s here. Almost none of them play TV! They just show squiggles and glows and static and blurs. Medicine for what? How will it help? Hey am I missing The Snorks? Oooh I’m on a chair on wheels! Take me to the elevator, nurse SLAVE! King Chris will sit on that throne! March! Ew, bad breath, doc. I’m cold. It’s always too cold in here. Little red button says don’t push…but I really wanna! Hey, the food comes on wheels too? Nice! How’s that machine work? And that one over there? What about…hey! Why are you putting the mask on me…wha…wha….zzz.
Every waking (lucid) minute was spent in countless questions. I soaked it up. Began to love the technical aspect of it. Curiosity killed the cat, but it sure saved me. My love of science had begun.
My dream became a natural response to my situation. See, I was going to be a doctor. But not just any doctor, an oncologist. And not just any old oncologist, but a pediatric oncologist. And not just your average pediatric oncologist, but one that cured cancer itself! Yes, ultimate justice! Carry me on, hope… and so it did. Through elementary, through middle school, through high school. I knew no other possible reality than that I would be a doctor (by the time I was 13 I gave up on the curing cancer part, though. Doctor would be more than enough).
I was 18 and pre, pre-med (just starting on general ed) at Cal Berkeley. Hell yeah, right?
I realized soon just how much energy it took to be a functioning student with barely passing grades. I was exhausted. It’s not because I walked, either, since I rode an electric wheelchair. It was the notion of having to be “on” just longer than I was used to. I couldn’t keep up.
Then I woke up and it hit me like a shotgun blast through the heart: Med school? 24/7 shifts? WALKING all day? Barely eating? Studying every waking hour?
I can’t do it.
I can’t do it.
I can’t do it…