Life is about what we're called to do

I'm starting to get used to hearing myself say "Hi, I'm Dr. Jacques." I am not too used to it to still be surprised at hearing myself say it sometimes.

What for so long was a pipe-dream, an unimaginable goal, is now my job. It honestly doesn't always feel real. I catch myself complaining about long hours and my sleepy eyes, reading responsibilities and EMS run reviews. Yes, the hours are long. Yes, I have to read too many dry chapters filled with technical jargon about trauma in pregnancy and drugs used in rapid sequence intubation like succinylcholine and etomidate. Yes, my monthly quizzes stress me out. But the day when I would've traded anything for the chance to be a doctor is not so far in my rearview mirror. The decision to pursue medicine I made in the white-tiled halls of my high school in downtown Dayton was like an attempt to swim the English Channel for me. It was a colossal and unachievable goal adopted for adventure and dreams of triumph. I was just a dreamy-eyed seventeen-year-old more concerned with acne and girls than laryngoscopes and triple lumen catheters.

Now on a daily basis I'm asked to supervise interns with lumbar punctures (spinal taps) and central line placement. They ask me how to survive their internship when I've just barely managed to survive internship myself. I share my limited knowledge, some words of encouragement, and attempt a smile, knowing I'm ecstatic I'm no longer standing in their shoes. Internship, like the first year of medical school, is nothing anyone ever wants to repeat, even on a bet with lots of money involved. I certainly don't consider myself a crafty veteran of the emergency department by any stretch of the imagination, but to the interns I've done the most important thing-recently finished the challenge they now face. And if they need me to play the role of sage second year resident, I'll do my best to help. I clearly remember how scared and overwhelmed I was my first couple of months, and if my words can provide some comfort, I'll volunteer them.

That's not to say I still don't find myself mortified at the thought of someday becoming an attending. Not having the safety net of an experienced someone looking over my shoulder, available for procedures that prove difficult and frustrating, someone to discuss cases with will be mortifying and exhilarating. One of the recent graduates from our program called it "career skydiving." I hope I'll have constructed a sturdy and reliable parachute of knowledge and experience through my residency. My program director assures me that we'll all be ready. I can't help but doubt his assertion every once and again, because I am acutely aware I am still the same dreamy-eyed seventeen-year-old who thought medicine would be a big adventure.

And that's the very reason I should not be so quick to for the wonder and awe with which I entered medicine. There's something important about the respect for my profession that it's easy to lose in the bustle of the emergency room at 3:00 AM while sewing the lacerated face of an intoxicated 32-year-old on a Saturday morning. Wasn't it just this that I looked forward to just a few years ago when I looked at wonder and amazement from the outside in on medicine?

So when the 52-year-old woman with abdominal pain returns two days later, complaining about my care and how I didn't listen to her problems and when I see yet another toothache that found their way to the emergency department instead of their dentist, I'll try to remember that this is it. In the words of Owen Wilson in "You, Me, and Dupree," (a movie about understanding and seizing your calling in life) "I'm bringing my seven types of smoke! I hear you mother ship!"

Life is about what we're called to do and doing it while loving others: good, bad, and intoxicated. I'm living the dream (I guess), and that's something I have to remember… even on the bad days. Otherwise, I won't have any wonder and awe to share.

Andrew Jacques ('05)