Saturday, May 15, 2010

Go and Find Your Friends

There is a grace to life, an unwarranted, unmerited generosity that brings things our way when we least expect it. Take yesterday, for example. You know already that I had to make a quick run to the doctor to have a tick bite addressed. Well, after the nurse had completed her initial assessment, asking about my "chief complaint" (the clinical term for what I was doing there in the first place), and taking vital signs, the doctor walked in. So far, it sounds pretty typical.

Except for the fact that it wasn't the doctor, it was a medical student, and not only that, but one of my entering classmates whom I hadn't seen in two years. It was his last day of rotations and better yet, it was his last day of medical school. For the past several weeks, I've been following similar announcements on Facebook, but I haven't actually been with anyone, in the flesh, to share their good news. The look on his face when he told me, was worth the price of a tick bite, several times over.

I'm not saying the reason for the bite and apparent subsequent infection was to get me to the clinic in order to participate in the moment with him, but I confess I have to wonder. What are the odds? He had two weeks of elective rotation left and decided to do extra time in family practice at our university's community clinic. My regular doctor was busy teaching classes, so I agreed to see anyone who was available. Was Mr. Tick following instinct or did Life intervene to propel him with the intention of higher purpose? Was he supposed to bite me in order to initiate the cascade of events that culminated in meeting up with my friend?

Your guess is as good as mine and I'm still scratching my head. All I know for certain is, we had a good time and it was great catching up. He's where I'll be in two more years and I could see myself in his place, anticipating residency, happy to be moving on. While I'm still preparing for board exams, it was encouraging to have a few minutes with one of those with whom I'd begun this process.

Graduation is seven days away and I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends again this week. We'll party, reminisce, talk about the future, and reinforce the bonds we formed in the beginning. At the end of gross anatomy, we had a bonfire in which we burned scrub suits that were stiff with dirt and stank of formulin. Wednesday night there will be another, this one to burn the short white coats of medical school, marking the passage of my classmates from students to physicians-in-residence.

I think I'll keep one of mine as a reminder of all that it cost me to get here, a symbol of a struggle I hope I never forget. The other, I'll throw into the flames of 2012, and watch its ashes rise into the night sky mystically joining those burning this week. And what will I do then? Well, then, as the character Lilly instructs Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the final scenes of Star Trek: First Contact, as he is about to risk everything to rescue Data from the Borg, I'll go and find my friends.

(Creative Commons image by mountsutro via Flickr)
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