Part of the narrative

MY FIRST foray at the Wards as first year resident was made up of a whirlwind of experiences—a combination of frustration and fulfillment (mostly the former). I suppose my month-long stay there was an initiation to the tough, challenging world of residency training in Internal Medicine at the Philippine General Hospital.

Because my patients were all lacking financially, I performed the roles of internist and social worker all at once. We all have, at some point. It was helping my patients (oh, the heavy burden that comes with that possessive pronoun) find funds for their medications or laboratories or procedures that took most of my time and much of my energy. I remember that day when I was almost choked with surprise and frustration when I saw that my patient hadn't been receiving the medications I had ordered days ago. The PhilHealth insurance wasn't approved yet; a relative allegedly with “funds” was still on the way; among the varied reasons, all of them valid, we're all used to hearing. The responsibility that comes with taking care of the patient extends far beyond excellent charting, ordering the best available antibiotics, or formulating the most accurate diagnosis. It goes to as far as making sure that the patient gets the treatment he or she deserves.

Medicine is a peculiar calling, indeed. It's not a job but a vocation, and there's a chasm of difference. If it were merely a job, then a doctor can just walk out of ward if he feels like it. He'll just be reprimanded or get a deduction from his salary when the month ends. Being a doctor means being a temporary steward of an ailing person's life. It is a daily call to self-denial, I suppose, for many instances come up when one has to give up one's comforts—like a ten-minute lunch at two in the afternoon—to attend to an emergency. It even means forgoing important events, like a close friend's wedding, to do rounds or attend to the sick.

But we have many reasons to be happy, my batchmates and I. Consider the two meropenem vials we have, in case our patients need them, or the four piperacillin-tazobactam vials we're saving up for hard days. Nothing compares to the sight of seeing a patient just about to die a day a few days ago walk out of the Ward as if nothing had happened. The Wards are a minefield of stories, and to be a part of a patient's narrative—if life were a novel—is a privilege indeed.

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