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The Storybook Called “Hospital”: A Glimpse into How Life Unfolds

Submitted by on November 29, 2014 – 11:18 AM

lifeanddeath“Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Five years ago, around this time, I was with great, eager, flurry-some interest; scrambling to apply to as many institutions of medicine in this city as I could. Yet, I had always loved literature. Writing came naturally to me. Medicine, however, would take work. It had however always been instilled in me that medicine also was a worthy and wondrous thing – and of course no doubt about that.


In fact, circa many more years ago; I was a small little thing – much more outgoing than I am now – vivaciously proclaiming on my school stage back in the States: “I want to be a doctor, to cure all your ills. You won’t be sick so very long, if I give you these pills!” These were two rhyming lines out of many similar career-oriented ones, handed to each of us, for different professions, by our homeroom teacher, to be memorized for the grand occasion of an end of year play for the parents. And these then, were delivered with great gusto, by yours truly, with another friend who had also picked ‘Doctor’ from the hat full of slips the teacher had also passed around the week before. These proclamations were made while holding up a bright plastic toy bottle of pills – for effect.  Thunderous applause followed, and my parents’ faces beamed in that crowd. My fate, it seemed, was signed, set and sealed.


Fast forward years later, and I had just made it out of the high school/A level years, and was scratching my head over piles and piles of forms, dragging my tired self on weekends and Sunday mornings (!) to prep classes for the tests that were to be conducted by various institutes of medicine all over the city. The glamour of the white coat and steth., the tantalizing beckoning of the title “Dr.” and not to forget, the chance to do something good, as well as do my family proud – these egged me on upon my quest. Yet through it all, I was still the literature-junky daydreamer, didn’t-quite-fit-in-any-particular-box anomaly of sorts. But, I soldiered on. And still do.


Finally settling upon one med school to enroll in, a new world was opened up to my daydreaming starry-eyedness. And yet my study methods were still oriented with making fanatastical links between fact and fiction. It was the only way I could really learn.


After the passing of the basic science years; 3rd year onwards, the clinical chapters of the med school existence were initiated – and that was where both of the contending interests of my life – literature and medicine – started to converge. For medicine has been said to be both an art and a science, and brings with it many shades and hues of human interaction – sometimes astoundingly and breathtakingly so. Traverse the floors of a hospital, and it is like a theatre; a book, unfolding the myriad stories ad stages of human existence; commencement to culmination.


The worried couple receiving counseling for their future chances of having a child. The joyous mother in the labour room, with sweat on her brow yet a smile on her face the moment she sees her baby. The other mother by her baby’s bedside; waiting and praying for him to get better. The malnourished child whose mother did not have enough to feed him. Or the one whose caregivers did know any better than to give him dilute cow’s milk and nothing much else.


The teenager with malaria, the youth in a traffic accident, the lady who’d had to have a bullet extracted from here, heal from aerial firing, the young man whose shattered shoulder blade had paid the price of neighbourhood warfare. Then there was the laughing elderly lady who firmly believed that ten tambakko-walay paans (tobacco with betel leaf) per day were the reason for her blood-pressure-induced headaches ‘feeling better doctor sahab’. The on-calls in gyne, where on one floor a new young father was saying the ‘azaan’ in his newborn’s ear; while on that very same floor, earlier an attendant and former nurse had been narrating the story of a young woman who had been going to deliver for a fifth time, after four daughters, and had begged to not have her husband be told if this child was a girl, for he had threatened that he would not let her come home.


It had been a girl, the family had been told that it was a stillbirth, and the child whisked away and given up for adoption. The moral of the story being that boys and girls were both blessings from God, said the attendant, with great conviction. Perhaps the beginnings of hopeful social chance. And I suppose, despite the sometimes not so great days, the feeling of weariness at times, it is yet a privilege to be able to catch these glimpses of beautiful humanity in the storybooks that hospitals can be – a storybook that I have been and am still reading, and finding new things every day.


About the Author: Reema Parwaiz Khan, is a final year student at the Ziauddin Medical University, Pakistan. She has a keen interest in reading, writing, literature, research and philosophy. Reema can be reached at [email protected]

About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2014.

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