Letter to Grandma

Bonjour MamiCo!

I pray that you are resting well, now that your suffering has come to an end. You left us way too soon in such a sudden manner, but we both know that God’s timing is perfect, no matter how imperfect we may percieve it to be. I was excited to come and see you this upcoming weekend because I hadn’t seen you in so long…but now that I’m unable to, I want to dedicate this post to you and tell you what I’ve been up to as of late. I’m sitting here chuckling because you would have no idea how to even read this English that I’m typing — forgive me for not being as fluent in French as you would have liked me to be. If you really wanted to though, you could probably copy and paste this whole post in Google Translate…but then again my younger brother would probably have to show you how to do that lol. I can vividly imagine you yelling his name and him running down the stairs to get to you, only to stare blankly at you in confusion for about a minute as you asked him in French how to work the computer you would be reading this on.

Okay, okay, I’m done rambling.

I just finished my first month of my third-year in medical school! Can you believe that?? I’ve been actively caring for patients for about four weeks now, specifically patients with heart issues my first two weeks and patients with kidney dysfunctions these past two weeks. C’est une bonne chose, n’est-ce pas? It’s already been a month and I’m still here trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’m really part of a team in the hospital working to save lives on a daily basis. If it’s crazy for me to think about where I’m at in my life now, I can’t even begin to imagine what you must be thinking about how much I’ve evolved ever since you first saw pictures of me as a chubby baby with a distinct, golden birthmark streaked across my cheek. Time flies huh?

This past week I had some pretty interesting experiences with several patients greatly varying in ages, who all made it known how appreciative they were of my care. I even found that my presence in one of the rooms of my patients had a calming effect on her and her regularly visiting family member! All I’ve really been doing for my patients is waking them up each morning to ask them how they were and to perform a physical exam before going back to my team to present the patients’ conditions to them as well as to work on my patients’ notes. Then I would go back to my patients later in the day just to chat with them for a bit. It amazed me how much they loved the simple fact that I would go back to check in on them in the afternoon. As a matter of fact, it continues to amaze me, and the things I learn about these people are incredible. Likewise, they’ve all been impressed at how far I’ve come at such a relatively young age.

However, even with all the excitement that comes with caring for patients, it continues to be a struggle to make myself study the material that I need to learn for my first shelf exam in early August. Granted, I’ve gotten creative with my study habits over the past couple weeks and have been able to get some good studying in while at the hospital. But once I get home, my drive plummets. I literally have to force myself to stay awake and work on practice questions for this test that’s sooner than I like to realize. It makes me wonder how in the world the interns and residents make it through the day with energy left to do other things when they get home. They work 10x harder than us medical students, and still have other things that they need to study just like us. I guess I’ll find a way to make it work when I get to that level, just like I’ve found ways to make it work in other scenarios both in the past as well as the present. I’m sure you would tell me to do the same thing, for you’re not one to listen to excuses haha. Compared to what you’ve been through, my struggles pale in comparision!

Now that I just finished my Renal rotation today, I’m heading into my Transitional Care Month. In this month, I’ll be participating in an immersion program called Walk In Their Shoes and will be working with the Geriatrics team in order to help take care of elderly patients. I’ll also be learning how to care for patients in hospice care and I’ll gain some experience working in an outpatient clinic in the city of Winston-Salem. With Walk In Their Shoes this week, I’ll take on the roles of different kinds of health workers in the hospital such as nurses, pharmacists, members of the rapid response team, and speech therapists. This collaborative program was created in order to give us the perspectives of other critical members of the healthcare team and to better appreciate what they do for a living. I’m honestly pretty excited to see how this week turns out!

Alright grandma, that’s all I have to update you with. It’s probably not as exciting as watching my brother and sister graduate from high school, but I hope it’s enough to make you very proud to call me one of your grandchildren. It really sucks that I wasn’t able to talk to you face-to-face one more time, but I’m sure we’ll meet again. When we do meet, I’ll be sure to tell you and the rest of the older generations in our family all the incredible things that your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and beyond have accomplished! You all will be so proud of having helped maintained lineages of excellence! The whole family is currently in deep mourning for you, but I pray that we gather the strength to turn this sorrow into a joyous celebration of your life. There is so much more that I wanted to learn about you, but I guess I’ll have to now get these stories from my parents as well as from the huge extended family that you’ve blessed us with. I’m incredibly grateful that I was granted the opportunity to have a memorable relationship with you, for you were my last surviving grandparent. May you forever Rest In Peace MamiCo. Looking forward to catching you on the other side! ❤️❤️❤️

MamiCo and me

Colette Ngantcheu

December 5, 1949 – June 10, 2017

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” – Billy Graham

– Black Man, M.D.

Grindin’ With Appreciation

You know, having to be on the wards this morning wasn’t that bad at all. Yes, it was weird having to go to sleep around 9PM on a Saturday night and having to work at the hospital today all the while reminding myself that tomorrow was actually Monday and not Tuesday…

 robert downey jr iron man eye roll the avengers tony stark GIF

But having to work a weekend day wasn’t bad at all! It was actually relatively chill, or as “chill” as being on the Renal unit can be I guess. I have absolutely no complaints and I absolutely enjoyed the more intimate atmosphere that I had with the smaller team that I was working with for the day. The interns I worked with this morning even let me go home quite early. However, my concept of a weekend is now a bit discombobulated lol. It now feels like I have “hospital-time” and “free-time” during the week as opposed to “a work-week” and “a weekend”. Thank God I’m actually having a great time while at the hospital and am not dreading spending my days there! The fact that time just continues to fly by while working just proves to me how much I’m loving my experience in third-year so far, even if I’m exhausted by 7:30 PM just about every day and have zero willpower to continue studying. Overall, I just feel very lucky and blessed to be able to love what I’m learning and doing enough to be perfectly okay with going in to work on the weekend.

This past week on the Renal service has really been an interesting one. (I know I’ve probably said that about the last two weeks already but darn it, all of third-year has been interesting so far!) During my second-year, I learned about how renal patients tend to have multiple co-morbidities and how the ones with end-stage renal disease have to rely on dialysis to keep themselves relatively healthy. But it’s one thing to learn about it from PowerPoint slides and another thing to witness these real-life patients with your own eyes. These patients are truly sick with multiple conditions and dialysis is required for many of them to survive. I felt really bad for the patients that I interacted with this past week, but I also got a sense of the strength that these patients possessed in order to battle the multiple conditions that they were afflicted with. I’ve also felt the deep appreciation from a patient who was just grateful that I came in to listen to her talk for an hour. That experience reminded me just how lonely being a patient in the hospital can be and just how appreciative some patients are when someone comes in to spend more than a few minutes with them. With another week in this unit, I’ll be granted the opportunity to continue processing the difficult lives that these patients live as well as the complex care that is necessary to adequately care for this patient population.

Along with learning more about this patient population, I also had the opportunity to observe and perform a few procedures! Yeah, I said it. You read that right. I PERFORMED SOME PROCEDURES! (With supervision of course.) I wasn’t doing brain surgery or anything, but I had a direct, physical impact on patient care for the first time since I started medical school! Well that is if you don’t count physical exam manuevers, because I guess that also qualifies as having a physical impact on patient care. But that ain’t as direct as pulling out vascular catheters from the necks of patients or placing an IV line into someone’s arm! Yeahhh that’s pretty lit, ain’t it? I did pretty well with removing the catheters, but I could use some more practice on placing IV lines though 😅. I also was able to observe a couple of blood draws and a procedure called a thoracentesis, where a doctor works to remove excess fluid from the pleural space surrounding the lungs. Wild, huh?

Alright, I gotta get back to studying/tackling my to-do list now that I have a bit of free time to do so, especially since I’m getting ready to attend an Internal Medicine Clerkship dinner in a couple of hours where I’ll be socializing with other students, faculty and residents working in Internal Medicine. Should be a good time!

Make sure to have a spectacular week!

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Please remember that your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.” – Maya Angelou

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – I’m trying not to let the ridiculousness currently taking place in the government kill my mood on a daily basis, but it’s getting REALLY hard to helplessly go on about my day while our country is being actively driven to the ground. There’s only so much phone calls can do, especially when your “so-called” representative isn’t even listening to what you have to say.