You have […..insert disease/condition name here…..] ? that is so cool!

As a medical student I don’t think I am alone in getting excited by disease and illness. A recent brunch at a new friends house led to the discovery that they were type 1 diabetic, “That’s so cool I said, i’m learning about that at the moment!” (Luckily we both laughed at the insensitivity of my stupid response).

I’ll give you another example:

My dad fell off his mountain bike last year and shattered his collar bone, after the initial shock and worry (yes, I am still human) I couldn’t wait to get all the details. What does it feel like? what does it look like? what do the X-rays show?

Luckily my dad was quite interested in it all too and become something of a rotator cuff expert during his recovery.

I would like to point out that I am equally excited by my own illnesses and injuries, when going to have some stitches removed from my foot at the doctors I was thrilled at being allowed to remove them myself.

In fact when I gave birth to my daughter almost 9 years ago by emergency C-section following pre-eclampsia , I got a real buzz out of the experience (I think that helped me decide that medicine was what I wanted to do).

It is the opportunity to learn and to possibly help that makes it all so exciting and yet I mustn’t ever forget the very real, lived-in experience of illness and disability.

I had a sobering and powerful reminder of that earlier this week when we were given the opportunity to spend an afternoon in a diabetes clinic. We were taught how to inject ourselves with insulin, we got to test each others blood sugars, examine each others feet and look at machines that diagnose retinopathy. All very exciting stuff to a medic. However it was meeting the patient with type 1 diabetes that had the lasting influence on me.

She sat and calmly gave us her life story, the many difficulties that she has faced and continues to face. She answered our questions and allowed us entry into her private world. I was in a privileged position to be given all this information.I know I will meet many, many patients but with time pressures it can be easy to forget the reality of the patients experience, I will remember this woman and try to ensure that the patient experience is key. It is of little use getting excited about illness if I cannot help improve the quality of life of those dealing with that illness day in and day out.

It was an EXCELLENT way of teaching us. it wasn’t the medical techniques we were taught but sitting and listening to a patient that was the greatest skill to be learned.


More of the same, please.


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