Archive for Thursday, December 24, 2009

Doctor prompts volunteer work

December 24, 2009

She is less than half my age, at least two inches shorter and twice as dedicated. She is a third-year medical student whom I met during my last surgery to remove my port.

A port, by the way, is a device that is surgically implanted to provide an access for intravenous chemotherapy without having to get stuck before each treatment.

I met her again during a follow up visit with my surgical oncologist. She asked if I remembered her. I was trying to remember whether or not I did, when she asked if I had sent my port off to my nephew for show and tell. I had asked it to be saved, autoclaved and bagged for mailing to him.

I had surgery more than a decade ago and forgot to ask for a body part to be saved for another nephew who wanted an ovary to take to school for show and tell. Unable to meet his request, the surgeon did agree to give me a surgical pack, which I sent on to my nephew. I lived in fear that I would get a call saying he had operated on his cat or a classmate.

The port is now lying on top of the piano, sealed in a plastic bag, ready to be mailed off in an oversized envelope. Faith Butler, the medical student, also asked me if I was able to wear my backpack and get my seat belt safely fastened now that the port was out.

The port rode right over my collarbone, making my backpack especially uncomfortable.

Butler proceeded with her careful and thorough examination of me, and I passed and am readying myself with the next transition of my life, which after a long discussion with the young doctor will involve my volunteering at a free clinic on whose board she sits.

We are looking, she said, for a psychologist for one day a month. I responded to her that I was not, even after two vain attempts of taking classes, bilingual. She responded that she was not at all worried, that I would learn.

And I will. With this young doctor as a role model, how could I not? She is doing a rotation in oncology. What she wants, however, is to be a family practice doctor, of which we have too few now. We talked about practicing in Wyandotte County, working with diverse populations, being able to know patients through their family history and about long hours with less pay than colleagues who specialize.

It’s like the port that got saved and especially prepared for a young 10-year-old boy in Virginia. It is Antoine de Saint Exupery’s Little Prince who is told by the fox that what is important is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one remembers rightly.

What is essential is invisible to the eye. Faith Butler knows that.

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