Posts tagged life

Life is not the form of the organism, but the organism is the visible form of life in its resistance to that which does not live and which opposes it.
Michel Foucault, 1963.
Every Morning.

Every Morning.

Visualizing Birth and Death

Hospitals are the crossroads to life and death.

In three short months, I have seen my share of new lives start on this earth and seen a few of the patients I have worked with pass into memory. The cycle of life is conveyed through these two intertwined moments. Enter stage left. Exit stage right. 

The following link simulates the births and deaths in the United States in real time. Where one life ends, another begins.

I keep reading all these med student blogs and they make me worried I won't have any time to have a life if I end up following that path. Is that the case? — Asked by Anonymous

Yes and no. I think that in the end, your life in medical school is still what you make of it. There are differences between the two styles of clerkship that exist at this time. I find that my friends in rotational clerkships have a more stressful and more intensive experience in medicine; the expectations and demands are greater. On the other hand, my friends in integrated clerkships sound a little more well-rested but more anxious because the style of learning is very independent.

In my conversations with my friends, it does sound much more manageable to have personal time in an integrated setting although it is by no means a cakewalk. There is no getting around the fact that medical clerkships are challenging, exhausting but rewarding experiences. The real challenge though is finding a balance for yourself.

At this stage of my learning, balance is probably the most crucial component to surviving the year. We are constantly inundated with information and expectations that it becomes a necessity to provide relief and care for yourself. Some days you are obligated to read for hours on end; other days, you can afford to take a few hours off to relax.

Life is person specific; it is what you make of it.

When life as opening buds is sweet,
And golden hopes the fancy greet,
And Youth prepares his joys to meet,—
Alas! how hard it is to die!

When just is seized some valued prize,
And duties press, and tender ties
Forbid the soul from earth to rise,—
How awful then it is to die!

When, one by one, those ties are torn,
And friend from friend is snatched forlorn,
And man is left alone to mourn,—
Ah then, how easy ‘tis to die!

When faith is firm, and conscience clear,
And words of peace the spirit cheer,
And visioned glories half appear,—
‘Tis joy, ‘tis triumph then to die.

When trembling limbs refuse their weight,
And films, slow gathering, dim the sight,
And clouds obscure the mental light,—
‘Tis nature’s precious boon to die.

Anne Laetitia Aikin (1743-1825) from A Thought on Death: November, 1814.
The Holstee Manifesto.
Although not specifically about medicine, many of these points are universal. They resonate as the simple truths. They belong within a human condition.
"This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often."

The Holstee Manifesto.

Although not specifically about medicine, many of these points are universal. They resonate as the simple truths. They belong within a human condition.

"This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often."

Scheduling Challenges

  • A group text message conversation.
  • A: Gym tonight?
  • B: I'm going at 6.
  • C: I'll probably go around 5:30, depends on if this patient goes into labour or not.
  • D: Going to have to pass on the gym tonight.
  • B: Too busy?
  • D: Something like that. I'm on call tonight.
  • C: Never mind, delivery. Got to go.

Moving Metropolis

I will be doing my third year clerkship in a larger, more cosmopolitan city. It is a different animal than the small city, some may even call it a town, that I grew up in. It is a transition to new dynamics that should prove interesting once I finally begin working in the hospital.


Dawn rises.
The city stirs from its half-slumber,
A million of one whole
To diverse roles and common goals

To the heartland.
The vessels swell
with slow ebbs, dense traffic, new obstructions.
Arteries pulse and branch with renewed pace.

Everywhere the system stands.
Autonomous: self-preserving, self-growing:
Constructions abound, repairs throughout.
But some areas still fall, individual and whole.

Signal the blaring sirens
To action, to purpose, to rescue.
Every other moment you hear
the steadfast patrol that fades or nears.

Till dusk falls.
A new life breathes into concrete sinews
Light paints a new face on its host.
Where work turns to play, to gather, to rest. 

Constantly the grounds move and breathe
With anonymous life. A million of a whole.
I look to this moving metropolis
This creature. An outsider. An insider. 

Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. 

Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. 

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. 

Familiar Faces

I was on my way home today when on the bus, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar face. She was standing there deep in thought. As she turned her head, her eyes met mine. Puzzlement set in first, followed by disbelief until finally her eyes lit up with joy and excitement as she came to greet me. It had been over a year since I last saw her.

Since coming back to the city, I have met many friends that I have come to know over the last few years. We met walking on the street, on campus, at work, over coffee, over dinner. Everywhere. I have even gone to visit some of my previous coworkers in the pharmacy I did my rotation in. I have always preferred meeting people in person rather than conversing over Facebook and the like because I find it less personable. Listening to my friends’ stories and updates is always exciting but seeing their animated faces, their smiles and feeling that human presence makes that experience truly something special.

While our paths in life have slowly diverged as my friends and I go our separate ways, I try never to forget the people I knew and the people that contributed in their own ways to where I am now. Like today, we do meet at crossroads from time to time and as we journey forward through uncharted roads, it is always nice to see some familiar faces.