I was talking to a friend the other day about the fact that what we now call “blogs”, we used to call diaries. Then I said to her, “I should pull out the diaries that I kept in college and in medical school and see what my old self had to say.” And so I did. The first entry was October 28, 1974. The last one was June 10, 1977. After that, I just got too busy to write anything down—that is, until now.
One thing is for sure—I didn’t want to embarrass my future self. I was so much more discrete back then. I hardly ever mentioned anyone by his or her full name, which is a shame now since I cannot remember who the heck B.C and E.S were, which somehow dilutes the profundity of my observations about them. And I left out the really juicy parts which is even more of a shame—I mean, isn’t that what diaries are for? Certainly not to quote Cat Stevens, which I did rather liberally, and with great feeling.
Still, upon review, there were a few things that I read tonight where I recognize the self that I have become. In February of 1977, on my core Internal Medicine rotation, I watched a 34 year old man die of complications of lupus, a disease which was significantly less treatable then than now. He had developed pneumonia, with fluid on both lungs which required chest tube drainage. I wrote, “He’s been asleep since we let the fluid out. Sometimes these days I have to turn my head and walk away from a patient’s bed so that they won’t see that I’m crying.”
In March of 1977, I had started my general surgery rotation. I wrote, “Today I wheeled a patient out of the operating room into recovery, a nineteen year old girl who woke up from the anesthesia screaming, “Don’t let my Daddy rape me again! Please don’t let my Daddy rape me again!” I wonder what the hell I am doing here.” That day I wrote a letter to a friend, saying, “I am so happy that you’re still here watching and listening and caring. I mean somebody better be, because no matter what they say about life being too short and all, it seems like this is going to be a long haul.”
And the last entry, June 10, 1977—“What seemed so menial, so mundane becomes the only way. Medicine is the only way. I think I see now; medicine is not for those who hate and fear death, but for those who hate and fear loneliness.”
Sometimes it’s nice to look back and see that somehow, it all worked out.