Tears

Jeff, Fourth Year Medical StudentI used to say that I am immune to tears. I grew up with a baby sister. I saw many tears. And admittedly, some were cause by me.

But I have realized that I am not as immune to them as I thought.

I am only immune to some of them. The kind that are manipulative. You know the kind. The kind that flows like a never-ending river when a child is not getting his or her way. The ones that go along with the sad, puppy-dog eyes that beg for you to give in. These kinds of tears I can handle. I can laugh at them because I will not be manipulated like that. I refuse.

But then there are the other kinds of tears. The tears that flow due to deep, heart-breaking pain. I realized this for the first time when I stood in a patient’s room. The patient lay in the bed, sedated by medications. The attending stood in front of me, trying to explain the circumstances to the family members.

I remember seeing the tears. I also remember hearing the guttural, almost-primal screams of agony and despair. The words they cried out weren’t even in English. But pain needs no translating. Theirs was a pain borne from unexpected outcome. The patient had been discharged home just days before. That night I had worked on the admission and, with the help a translator, been able to communicate with the patient. But over the course of 10 hours the patient had deteriorated and pain and anguish was what was left in the room.

I physically removed myself from the room. I had seen sad situations many times before but this one got to me. I could feel my eyes start to water. My throat got tight. The air was thick and heavy. I needed to take a few breaths.

I used to say that I am immune to tears. I cannot anymore.

This entry was posted in 4th Year, Clinical Rotation and tagged , , , by Jeff. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jeff

I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. I attended Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) in Washington State where I received a bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering and a minor in Mathematics. After a short 4 years away, I am now back in Southern California. I am often asked what kind of doctor I would like to be. I used to say that I would like to be a good one. Mostly this was because I was not really sure what specialty I wanted to go into. But now I've decided on internal medicine. So there's progress, at least. When I am not busy doing something related with school, I enjoy photography, reading, working on my computer, basketball, ping pong, and martial arts. I also write here, on my personal blog at JeffreyMD.com, and as a contributing medical student at Medscape's The Differential.

One thought on “Tears

  1. Jeff, good for you for being honest about your feelings. Your compassion will make you a great doctor. The best doctors care sincerely for their patient and can offer that during the dark hours. At other times and most importantly they also know when laughter can be the greatest medicine. .

Comments are closed.