med school, musings



A 19-year old boy became quadriplegic — paralyzed from the neck down — after a vehicular accident. He stopped schooling not only because of insufficient resources but also to work as the family’s breadwinner. Now, the family has to completely adjust to take care of him on a daily basis. 

A woman in her 20’s has permanent neurologic deficits after falling from a moving vehicle. She has a child and she has to return to living with her father as the deficits make her unable to be fully independent in everyday life. Her sister has to move back in the city for her, too.

Whenever our teacher cites particular patients’ stories as an example in our FCM (Family and Community Medicine) class, I get goosebumps. Not only because the story itself is compelling enough to draw sympathy. Or it emphasizes the importance of dealing with patients as a human being – not as a mere piece of disease. 

But because that patient could have been me. I could have been quadreplegic; I could have been dealing with neurologic deficits — or both — after falling from a moving vehicle last New Year’s Eve. My family could have had a different routine that includes feeding me, bathing me; finding ways to make daily life the new kind of normal.

A lot of could have’s, indeed. Out of a weird, sometimes morbid, sense of humor, I’m able to formulate self-deprecating jokes out of the incident today. I suppose it’s funny now only because everything has returned to normal and effects that can impact everyday life are nonexistent. But the first few weeks of recovery  were crucial and stressful for the family, so it was no laughing matter.

I did move on from the said accident already — if moving on means learning from experiences and choosing to move forward every day instead of being immobilized by the past — but it will always remind me of the other possibilities. 

And it reminds me to never underestimate a person’s capability (of surviving), the limits of which could be farther than one has imagined.

As my mother told me, “Naka-survive man gani ka sa pagkalabay sa pickup. Maka-survive pud kaayo ka diha sa med [school].”


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