FIRSTS: THE MEDICAL EDITION 🏥💊💉

Medical training is a journey of first tragedies and first successes. These days I keep a journal of them; I wish I had done so all along.
  1. First time I realised I could be a doctor
    Grade 8. I had just transferred to an all-girls high school and I heard some girls saying they wanted to study medicine. At my co-ed primary school, no girl had ever said that. It was always the boys. It was kind of an epiphany for me.
  2. First time I wanted to quit med school
    June of MS 1 (six months in). I was bored and had spoken to some girls studying occupational therapy. I became convinced I would love OT more. My dad told me I had to finish the academic year and then I could decide. I ended up not changing degrees and I don't regret it. Interestingly, my younger sister is now studying OT.
  3. First medical emergency
    Second year MS. We (friends) were at the mall late at night. We walked past a deserted corridor and saw a girl having a seizure. We didn't have anything with us obviously, so all we could do was to get her in recovery position and call the medics. But we felt like heroes. 🙈
  4. First med school romance
    MS1. He was MS4. It was one of those whirlwind thrilling romances. We caused quite a stir because it was an interracial, inter-religious relationship and our campus was very conservative. It lasted four months and was wonderful until it was not. He became manipulative and emotionally abusive and I was convinced it was my fault. Anyway. I still have conflicted feelings about the whole fiasco.
  5. First baby delivered
    13 February 2011 at just past 16h00. It was a little girl and when I told the mother, she said, "Damnit, I wanted a boy." 😳
  6. First botched IV cannula
    It was also my first attempt at a cannula and my supervisor though (or didn't think??) that giving me a heparinised patient was a good idea. I took one look at the gushing blood, thought I was in an artery, and pulled out.
  7. First baby I fell madly in love with and wanted to take home
    A three month old little boy, MS3. He was abandoned, HIV-positive, and very sick. And we bonded. Leaving him behind was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
  8. First death
    MS3, Internal Medicine. She was thirty-something, HIV-positive, came in SIADH and cryptococcal meningitis. Massive intracranial pressures. She died in high care, crying for God.
  9. First failed test
    Musculoskeletal System, MS4. I really deserved the bad mark. Luckily I did well enough in the next test to gain exam-entrance.
  10. First CPR
    A newborn baby mistakenly brought to the adult casualty. He died.
  11. First successful intubation
    MS5, Anaesthetics rotation. It was smooth and uneventful but I felt wonderful.
  12. First in-love-with-the-human-body moment
    MS5, scrubbed in to a neck dissection. It was beautiful. Nothing - not cadavers, not digital representations, not anatomy atlases - compares.
  13. First injury on duty
    Sixth year MS on a rural rotation. It involved a spinal tap, splashing spinal fluid, and my eyes. The patient was HIV-positive and I had to take prophylaxis for four weeks.
  14. First patient who red-carded (signed out against medical advice)
    Sixth year MS. I was sent to remove a chest tube for a patient. He shouted that he wanted "a more expensive (sic) doctor". I went to get my supervisor and when we came back the man had placed his drain in a plastic shopping bag and was demanding to sign out. He came back a week later with an empyema (pus in his pleural space).
  15. First day of work as a qualified doc
    1 January 2015 (I'm still a baby)
  16. First solo c-section
    5 February 2015. It was a little boy. I have never trembled as much as when I made that first cut. It took me an HOUR (experienced docs can do a section in 20 minutes skin-to-skin, some even faster). It was Summer and when I removed my gown afterwards I was dripping with sweat.
  17. First chest tube on a live patient
    September 2015. I had only practiced on cadavers and dead pigs in med school. I was liberal with the local anaesthetic and it went well, but I was too nervous to pay attention to anything else. On about my tenth tube a few days later I first paid attention to the wonderful sensation of a lung re-inflating.
  18. First time an addicted colleague tried to get me to prescribe narcotics for him
    February 2016. It was a draining experience for both of us. I think about him sometimes and hope he is getting the help he needs.
  19. First time I realised I don't regret doing what I'm doing
    I want to end with this but the truth is, I don't know. Somewhere along the line I became happy with my profession, even though I am not always happy. It was a gradual realisation, and though it sometimes goes away, it always comes back.