While convalescing from a bad case of flu (upper respiratory tract infection, probably viral, if I should document that in my chart), I headed to my optometrist to get an eye exam and a new pair of glasses. It has been a while since my last visit—three years ago, when I was still a medical student. Now with long, black-brown hair but still brimming with a hippie vibe, she remembered me fondly, telling me, while checking her index cards, that she started seeing me in 2005. I was around 17 then, majoring in molecular biology, when I could still see my feet clearly sans the spectacles. These days, you could strip yourself naked right before me, and I wouldn’t recognize a thing.
We rarely get patients with Down’s syndrome. This month I’ve been taking care of a patient with such condition; he is already 35 years old. His mother, in her early seventies, still looks after him. She cleans after him, changes his diaper, doesn’t mind that his feces has soiled the sheets, and makes sure he doesn’t fall off the bed. He has gotten better since his admission, and we plan to send him home in a day or two, God-willing.
The nurse at the Out-Patient Clinic alerted me that I had a long list of patients to see. My pile was extraordinarily tall. Some charts were as thick as my books, brimming with paper made fragile and yellow by time. I was running late. I should have started seeing patients at 1 PM—it was already 10 minutes past two. I was also attending to one of my admitted patients whose course was getting complicated by the day. I couldn’t be at two places all at once, so there I was: sweaty and hungry and ready to save lives, one patient at a time.