33rd Birthday

If I had to characterize my last year in a few words, it would be "struggle and perspective." From about August to April, I was either applying for jobs or worrying about jobs, and I've already written about how that led me to feel a whole host of negative emotions. The summer months provided me some respite, but now that the job market is starting again, I'm already feeling the anxiety. I imagine that there will be struggle again, though less severe this time around.

My last year has also been characterized by perspective, mainly because of my brief, but direct, exposure to suffering. Since my encounters with the two men in wheelchairs, I've shadowed various doctors at the hospital, including an internist, psychiatrist, palliative doctor, and pediatrician.

On Wednesday (my birthday), I saw two dying patients: an old lady with a brain tumor, and a middle-aged man who had failing lungs. The old lady was somewhat alert; I could tell from her facial expression that she was suffering. It actually reminded me of the expression that my grandma made when she became hospitalized. The middle-aged man was alert and talked about how he wanted to keep living so that he could spend time with his family. He asked about an organ transplant that he needed, but the doctor told him that he wasn't a candidate because of the state of his lungs. He begged the doctor to promise him that he wouldn't let him die. The doctor said he couldn't promise him that but that he would do whatever he could. There was a bible on the desk.

Yesterday I went to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and saw a lot of sick babies. There was one specific baby who, for some reason, suffered massive brain damage. The doctors said that he will never walk, stand, or sit, and that his condition will probably kill him. It's a tragedy that so many babies won't have the chance to experience the good things in life. They won't develop their potential, fall in love, see a sunset, laugh with friends, appreciate music, eat ice cream, dance, travel the world, cuddle with animals, exchange smiles with a stranger, and hear the waves of the ocean. Due to nothing more than an unlucky draw of the natural lottery, they have been condemned to spend their days in a room of a hospital, and to exist mainly in the memories of their families.

Encountering suffering gives you perspective. That one project that you think you have to complete, that one appointment that you think you have to make, you probably don't.