Becoming Better Doctors
There are few professions in the world as fascinating as a doctor’s. The reason being its association with the wonderment called life. And while a physicist plays his part carrying the human race technologically forward, and while an economist guides the monetary orchestra of the world, it is the doctor who stands at the crossroads of life and death, armed with nothing more than knowledge, like an immigration officer at the airport who is a medium for the Higher Authority to control who goes forth and who waits for his time.
Death has been a mystery since the birth of life; a one-way ticket to a time unknown, a land unseen, and a fate unimaginable. It is widely stated that the only certainty of life is death, and yet after thousands of years of existence, mankind remains naïve about the concept. Throughout the chapters of time, several propositions have come forth, some in the form of Holy Scriptures, others in the form of beliefs gathered from surrounding pieces of information. The fact is that death remains a mystery, and a doctor stands at its open door with his back towards it, trying, as part of his duty, to restrict entry of anyone who comes knocking at his doorstep.
A doctor is the last person many people see before they depart into oblivion, hence for some he is the human appearance of the angel of death. The climax in a doctor’s life is reached when he finally turns around, and enters the mysterious door himself, after years of being a barrier to others, after years of being so close and yet so ignorant of its true nature; the climax of a doctor’s life is reached when his vitals finally give up on him.
The best explanation mankind has arrived for death is a state where life ceases to exist. Death can be likened to darkness, which is best defined as the absence of light. But while light and darkness are two extremes of the same spectrum, death is more of a partition, an abrupt journey, the mid-point of two separate entities. The human spectrum is spread over life and whatever lies ahead of death. Every time a patient arrives to a doctor, the latter’s checking of the former’s vital signs is essentially to weigh the normality of the “known side” of the human spectrum, to evaluate the distance left before the partition is approached. The further a patient is from the partition, the calmer a doctor’s nerves are. The closer he gets, the more anxious a doctor becomes. Such is the complexity of this profession.
The human life is an intriguing phenomenon. What starts of as the fusion of merely two microscopic structures, can eventually develop into personalities that can change the course of human history till the end of time. Every human is born the same way, and yet the different possibilities of his impact on the world are infinite. Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler and Alexander the Great were all humans. So were Isaac Newton, Nicola Tesla and Albert Einstein. The man working inside a coal mine thousands of miles away from you is also human, and so is the policeman whom you saw today while crossing a particular road. And of course, the author and reader of these words are humans as well.
Each human life is a story, a long and vibrant story. The story is written for as long as the vitals can be measured; their cessation implies that the story has concluded. And hence all those months of getting nurtured in the womb, achieving pediatric milestones such as neck-holding, walking and getting toilet trained, the years spent in educating oneself, the struggle to build a career, the first love, the birth of children, the tragic losses, the cherished friendships, the hurtful betrayals; all of these come to an abrupt end once the vitals become undetectable. Your pulse, your blood pressure, your respiratory rate and your temperature, are all testaments to the fact that the story is still being written, and this is why they hold the key to a doctor’s composure.
The most interesting part of this profession is that its main aim is to temporarily alter a person’s path towards what’s eventually bound to happen. It’s like changing the track of train approaching a cave, such that it turns sideways, takes a long circular turn, only to get back on the same track that will eventually take it to its destined location. We humans go to doctors often in our lives when we’re not yet ready to enter the cave, so that we can buy some more time, so that we can stay in the “familiar zone” a little longer before we head into what we know little of.
Sometimes the doctor is successful in doing this for us; at other times we’ve already gone a bit too far for him to do the same. Our entrance into the cave in the doctor’s presence may be seen by those still on the “familiar side” as the doctor’s failure. However little do they know that the author of this story is not the doctor, not we, but an Entity far beyond the comprehension of His creation. The doctor is nothing more than one of the many characters in the story, sensitively placed, at the end of the final chapter.
About the author:
Ali Rafiq is a final year MBBS student at Dow Medical College. He wishes to pursue surgery as a career. He can be reached at: [email protected]
About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2012 for the theme: Becoming better doctors. To learn more about the contest and to participate in it, follow this link: http://blogs.jpmsonline.com/writing-contest/
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