Pediatrics was my first tour of duty as a post graduate intern at JBLMRH, a tertiary level government hospital that also served as a referral center and training institution. I was already about to end my pediatrics rotation then, I pause for a while and think, is it all worth it? Was I ready for more sleepless nights, the endless harassments, the unkind words and the harsh treatments? Should I have taken the chance to transfer to another hospital where the conditions may not be that much better, but at least I will be among friends who will act as my support group? Looking back, I honestly did not know how I managed to keep up with the kind of treatment, then I remember at least one saving grace to all the madness.
It was during my tour of duty at the out patient department. As always we were packed to the rafters as an endless sea of sick kids brought in by their parents came in droves for a chance that a remedy to their ailments was at hand.
I was all alone that day as my senior resident told me that I could handle the remaining cases for the day. Either she had complete faith in my abilities or she was also taking some time off for herself, I wouldn’t know for sure. It was taxing doing everything yourself. I was just about to give up. Realizing that I would also be on duty at the emergency room later did not help. I just wanted the day to end. Then, miraculously I was down to the last patient for the day, a follow up consult. It was a child swathed in the all too familiar white cloth. He came in accompanied by both parents. Nothing unusual so to speak. But what caught me off guard was when they were suddenly thanking me profusely for taking good care of their sick child while he was still admitted in the wards. I can barely remember what I did for them that seemed so important, but apparently to them I was definitely not forgotten. It was then that they handed me a plastic bag containing a singular crab. It was a large one by any standard and I stupidly asked them what it was for. It was a gift they said. It was their way to show their thanks. Initially I didn’t want to accept it, telling them that they needed it more than I did, knowing quite well that the population we serve here at the hospital are the lower income bracket, or simply put those who could not afford better equipped hospitals who charge by the visit. But they insisted that I take it, it was just a catch from the fishpond they said. Then I remembered something I was often told about the rich and poor. The rich give to others what they have in excess, but the poor give all that they have. I did not want to insult their generosity so I accepted their gift and fervently hoped for their good health.
This story could have happened to anybody else in my profession, you probably already heard a similar story from someone else, but at the end of the day, this is my story.
Many times I’m asked if being a doctor is worth all the hard work and the sacrifices that we do. Looking back at this story I can tell you, it is.