It was just a day of shadowing in primary care. I didn't expect to be enlightened or changed at all from the experience. What could be so exciting about general pediatrics when there was the exciting world of pediatric oncology? What could be so interesting about children with common colds when kids with cancer existed? I anticipated boredom.
For the first part of the afternoon, I observed and wrote down all of the individual jobs of each person who worked in the clinic—from the woman at the front desk to the medical assistants responsible for the physician’s scheduling. Although informative, it wasn't the most exciting of tasks.
Finally, it was time to follow the doctor. She was a third year resident, and for pediatrics that meant it was her final year of residency before she would choose a specialty—or begin her practice as a pediatrician. She looked stylish with a stethoscope draped around her neck, and her kindness immediately put me at ease. She led me down the hallway, which was decorated with bright colors and crayon-scribbled pictures. We entered a room, and there, in his father’s arms, was Eddie*.
Eddie did not have cancer. He did not have a Hickman line or a port or an NG tube. He did not have anemia or low platelets or mouth sores from chemotherapy. Instead, Eddie had the beginnings of a full head of hair on his head, a pacifier in his mouth, and fully functioning reflexes. As we put him on the infant scale, Eddie began to cry—the touch of the cold metal on his skin was difficult for the newborn.
And in response to Eddie’s tears, the strangest thing happened to me; I felt laughter rising up out of me and a smile plastered itself on my face. Here in front of me was a normal, healthy baby. Here was a miracle—and not a miracle that needed cytotoxic drugs to stay alive, but a miracle that needed nothing but continued love and nourishment. Eddie was a gift.
I left that day with a skip in my step and a smile on my face. Though I didn't feel like I’d made any difference in Eddie’s life, he had made a difference in mine.
*Names were changed in this piece to ensure confidentiality
Maggie is a first year medical student from small-town Mississippi who serves as a Mayo Medical School Class Representative. She is interested in end-of-life care and is a collaborator on a clinical research project in the field of pediatric hematology. She hopes to one day have a career in pediatric hematology and oncology.