Medical school is a series of firsts.
The first time I sutured a skin laceration on a real, living, breathing human being all by myself.
The first time I witnessed a birth.
The first time I delivered a baby (Hint: The baby does most of the work for you).
The first time I helped suture a uterus in a C-section.
The first of my patients who died.
And then the second.
And then the third.
The first of my patients, who fit the textbook definition of their disease process.
And the last one who did.
The first patient who couldn’t respond to me because he had cerebral palsy.
The first time I used an otoscope to look into a child’s ear for zebras, giraffes and signs of infection.
(Fifty sets of ears in, I’m still in awe of pediatricians, veritable masters of the physical exam).
The first time I saw white tonsillar exudates … just like the ones in the textbook pictures!
The first time I relayed to a patient that their head CT was negative, their family breathing a sigh of relief.
The first time I saw a patient cry.
And then the second.
And the third.
The first time one of my patients was told she had miscarried.
And, unfortunately, the second once more.
The first time I saw real, deep fear in a patient’s eyes.
And the first time I held their hand, because there was nothing else I could do in that moment.
The first time I saw a new father’s face drain of color as his child was being born.
“Yes, this is really happening,” I wished to tell them, but bit my tongue.
The first time that a nurse offered me guidance, assistance, and reassurance.
And the second, the third, the fourth and thirtieth time since then…
The first time I allowed myself to ask for help.
The first time I put my scrubs in the washer.
The first time I heard a heart murmur.
The first time I missed a heart murmur.
The first circumcision I helped on.
The first time I was faced with a patient’s presenting complaint and, after taking an overly detailed history, still thought to myself: “I, for the life of me, have no idea what they have.”
The first of my patients who held my hand and said, “Thank you.”
The first time, and every time since then, that I have felt so privileged to be part of this profession.
Medical school is a series of first times, and for that I am ever, ever so grateful.