However, there is more to flattery that makes me stick to this profession. Indeed we physicians cannot live by flattery alone. It is the fulfillment that I get out of this profession that gets me through the busy schedules and the demanding duty hours. It is the fulfillment that I get out of this profession that makes me last a number of days even with only a few hours of sleep and two cups of coffee running through my veins.
A mother's smile and the sigh of relief and security she gives out right after she delivers her baby. The cry of a newborn baby. The privilege of being the newborn's first human contact as he or she is brought out to a world which is wider and wilder than the mother's uterine cavity. A simple thank you from the parents of a pediatric patient whose wound which he got out of child's play has just been sutured. Another thank you from an adult patient who just recovered from a severe bout of infection, or experienced relief from excruciating abdominal pain. I remember reattaching and suturing up the dangling and shattered ears of a waiter after his head was trapped between the doors of a closing food elevator. It felt like I was sewing up meaty pieces of a jigsaw puzzle entitled, 'The Revenge of the Food Elevator' or 'Look, Ma, I got my ears back and they're whole again!' Engaging in a conversation with a patient who is this time already talking back to you, smiling and thanking you for everything - all good signs that he has finally got out of the comatose state he was in when you first met him at the emergency room. The smiles on their faces which are overflowing with thankfulness, and which are louder than and more profuse than their thank you's. All these priceless moments, make me tick and inspire me more to be the best physician that I can be.
I could not picture myself to be in any other profession although in the tiny crevices of my brain I have entertained thoughts of being a chef or a photographer. Not that I dread or look down on other professions, of course not. I will never do that. The glaring irony here is that now, I could not picture myself to be in any other profession but in the past it was actually difficult and near impossible that I would be where I am now.
I come from an average Filipino family belonging to the middle class of the economic stratum and my parents are simple rank-and-file employees with big dreams for their children and with high hopes that their children would never go through the poverty they had to deal with as soon as they first saw the light of day. Life was already hard in the Philippines when my parents were born, as it is now. But I believe some things are just meant to happen and through God's grace, I indeed became a doctor. The first doctor in my family.
My love affair with medicine started way back when I was very young when I remembered someone asked me what I wanted to be with when I grow up. That was actually when I was older than six years of age because my kindergarten yearbook says I wanted to be a teacher. But teaching and the art of healing, I realized, are so closely related, and one is as noble as the other. I answered I wanted to be a doctor and the rest was history.
I would like to believe that my love affair with medicine is a process that is continuously evolving. It is not untainted with imperfections. There are those days when I have to drag myself out of the bed, and in my case out of the bed and on to the pier. It is not spared from challenges especially those times when you need to be strong and you need to maintain an unfazed stance even as both near-death and death reveal their faces to you, all depleted with emotions except that of maybe pain and helplessness, all ashened and gasping for air, grunting and screaming inaudibly yet paradoxically in a deafening way.
But I do not get tired of that. I do not get tired of everything medicine at all.
I do not get tired with lining up for my boat tickets. I do not get tired of seeing that scene at the pier over and over again, by my window at the seacraft. I do not get tired watching the men throw the ropes that will anchor the boat to the pier. I do not get tired and impatient as they position the wooden plank with care, it being our gateway to dry land. I do not get tired of hearing the cacophony of passengers' voices at the pier.
I do not get tired because of all those signal the beginning of a new day. Those scenes are a prelude to a day which will again be spent in saving lives, and most importantly, those scenes remind me that indeed, I am living the dream.