At 11:30 am, I decided it was time for a new strategy. The university students and I had been shuttling between a canteen and the department in order not to take up the limited space in the waiting area. At the canteen, we went over the process of seeking consent from our caregivers a few more times. On my sixth trip to the Radiotherapy Department where I was hoping to gain the sympathy of a nurse to inquire about anyone else in the department who I may be able to speak to about the project, none other than the Head of Radiotherapy appeared from a room.
Today was quite the day!
At dawn, I made the trek from my house to the main road in order to hop on a local bus (a trotro) to begin my 3-hour commute to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. I engaged in conversation with the driver on the fourth (and last) bus I was on and he told me his sister lived in Connecticut. He was thrilled to learn that I had spent four years in school in a state whose existence many Ghanaians were ignorant of. We exchanged numbers and he promised to put me in touch with his sister. The taxi driver and I had found a personal connection!
The following is the first in a two-part reflection piece written by Kamini Doobay, Class of 2015, during her Art and Science of Medicine (ASM) class.
“Breathe with your patient – with your stethoscope placed correctly. In and out….and again, in and out.”
As I fumbled to get my earpiece in correctly and gently place the cold stethoscope on Mr. T’s back, Dr. Fierer spoke these words. Breathe with my patient? I nodded in acceptance, for he knew what he was doing and I clearly did not. My skepticism and self-doubt was not obvious. No one – the doctor, the patient or my fellow classmates – could tell that all I was thinking was,”How can I breathe with my patient and listen at the same time?”
My preceptor went ahead to double check whether the patient was willing to speak with me. I heard a woman’s voice and tried to imagine what she looked like-was that a Caribbean accent I heard? My preceptor drew back the curtain and introduced me to the patient. Then he turned and strolled out of the room to leave me alone with Mrs. Washington.*
I’ve had experience interviewing adolescents before. I worked at the Adolescent Health Center for most of a semester in my first year of medical school. But this was the first time I would interview an adolescent patient alone, and perform the physical exam. I was a bit nervous.
I walked into the room to find a tall, thin, young woman lying nearly supine, bundled in hospital bed sheets. Her father sat in the green, rubbery chair beside her bed. The girl’s pale face nearly blended into the bed sheets that enveloped her. I introduced myself and asked for her name. Veronica.
I met Marlene when her dreams were interrupted at 5 a.m. Monday morning. She opened her eyes to a swarm of white coats crowding around her bed. She then weathered a few minutes of rapid-fire questions about nausea and bowel movements.
It was morning rounds on my first day of my surgery rotation at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Marlene was much more accustomed to this whirlwind pre-dawn ritual than I. She had been in the hospital since Friday, when she had decided that the past week of vomiting and abdominal pain warranted a trip to the emergency room.