Saturday, January 28, 2006

Burning Out...Staying Alive

People say that I've got a good coping mechanism. I really don't know why they're telling me such. All i know right now is that i'm running out of that "good coping mechanism" they're telling me i possessed. As of this time, i could feel myself burning out. Too much work to do, too little time to do them. Ah yeah! Too little time? How come i could post this blog? Not doing this thing would mean that i'm too cruel with myself.

Yesterday, i'm talking with a very close friend. We talked about our lives, reflecting on our choice of profession. Why on earth did we become doctors? He was depressed with his current state, and i too feel that i'm falling into that deep pit again. He was so concerned with his future, i am too absorbed with my tomorrows. For every tomorrow would mean work for me - obligation, responsibility, whatever you call it. Every tomorrow would mean interaction with the sick, the dying, the hopeless, the oppressed, the depressed. In other words, another interaction with people who are sucking out all the positive energy in me...and they're slowly killing me.

After this residency training, after these hardships, what's next? Another journey to another chapter of the jungle of life. Where competition is to the neck, the quest for success is to the brim. A new world where new doctors would have difficulty surviving. Is this training worth all my hardships then? Will this training prepare me in facing the "open sea"? The sea where big doctors (some of whom already became nurses) are like predators preying on potential patients in order to earn. Everything's as dark for me as the starless night. It seems as if im working everyday of my life without any assurance of a bright future. With the way our government is running, with all the corruption and politickings, there surely is no way that young doctors like us could survive the "open sea."

I realized that it isnt just me who's feeling burnt out. I seem to have lost all inspiration to keep on going. The influx and load of patients, meager salary, great responsibility, too much work, and after talking with my friend, our dim future, who would feel great and inspired?

We asked ourselves,"Why did we become doctors"? The difficulties and hardships of clerkships are really just a start of greater challenges of this profession i chose. Maybe we were just stupid enough, we deduced, that's why we are here. Maybe we were just idealistic morons who were thinking that we could help alleviate the ills of human race. Maybe be were just selfish individuals who thinks that we will feel gratified saving a life from death. Maybe we were just religious spirits who were thinking that God called us to this profession in order to fulfill our role on earth.

In the end, we concluded that we just have to hang on. To keep on going, to finish what we have started. We still are those stupid and selfish individuals, the religious and idealistic morons - only burnt out. There's no way however that we'll pass that bitter pill we have to take. Everything happens for a purpose and there's no way we couldnt get through this. No matter how difficult our lives are right now, no matter how dim our future look, we wanted to become doctors, are now doctors, and will die as doctors. As for now, despite of being burnt out, we just have to continue shedding light, try our best to stay alive - so that others may live.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Resuscitating a dying patient, intubating him/her and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation thereafter, seemed as objective to me as 1-2-3. In the absence of pulses and respiration, 1. hyperventilate patient with a bag mask...2. do intubation... 3. perform cardiac massage... 4. administer epinephrine... so forth and so on. There's no emotion involved here. In order for me to really focus on what i am doing, that is stealing somebody's life from death, i must never let my heart rule over my head.

Early this morning, i performed the procedure in an extraordinary manner. While resuscitating my patient, thoughts kept on running through my mind. I was objective and detached, not knowing what to feel. Fact is, i must feel nothing. I did feel nothing. I performed the procedure well. I was in a dilemma though whether what i was feeling was the one that's appropriate for me. Being objective is what's being expected from me. What if the one that i'm saving from death however is my own blood? My patient this morning was my dad's eldest brother.

The very moment i saw him cold and clammy, i sensed impending doom. His pulses were weak and thready, gasping for dear air. Goodness, i was praying that i need not perform the resuscitation myself but the inevitable happened. While intubating him, i was telling myself,"Hey, 1st time? It's your 1st time to perform the procedure to a relative." While doing my cardiac massages, i was asking myself,"How will i tell dad about this?" When everything that's needed to be given and done was performed, i was thinking,"How will our family take this?"

I was very objective. I was very detached. I did not feel a thing, i did not feel pain or loss within. Is this what's proper for me to feel? Am i too saturated with deaths that i feel nothing even for the death of my own uncle? I may not be that close to him for i only see him once or twice a year during reunions or special occasions but i must be feeling something, a little pinch in the heart maybe. There was none though. I was totally numb.

With the flatline that i could see in his tracings is my flat affect. Not sympathizing, not comforting, too detached. For some of my colleagues, i did the right thing. If i was emotional, then i might not be able to perform the procedure well. I am just wondering though, am i still human? Movies could put me to tears now (again!). Why is it though that i feel nothing for the death of a relative? Gosh, i really am desensitized. I really needed a break...too badly.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I Need a Break

There are times that i am asking myself "why on earth did i dream to become a doctor?" When i was young, i was amazed by people wearing those white, long-sleeved coats, with stethoscopes hanging on their necks to complete the outfit. I was moved by life-saving actions and dramas on tv like doctors resuscitating a dying patient. I am touched by heroic deeds of saving somebody's life. I acted as a doctor myself when i was young, giving my "patients" who happened to be my playmates, "medicines" (candy mints to be exact) to alleviate their "diseases" (thanks to them, they're all good actors and actresses). A friend reminded me that i treated her bruise with "malunggay" when we were in gradeschool. At a young age, people found me having the talent to treat the sick.

Now that i have reached that childhood dream, i am wondering why i still feel empty. I have treated hundreds of sick people, alleviated their pain, gave comfort to the dying, and helped prevented complications, yet, i can no longer feel the sense of fulfilment. No longer for i had this feeling of high when i was just starting in this profession. Now, i feel nothing.

In my 2nd year as a full-fledged doctor, i already feel burnt-out. I didnt realize how being a doctor become so draining. Maybe im just too tired, too harassed, too saturated with the number of cases that i see each day. Maybe, working in a governtment-ran institution is just too tiring that seeing a new case, or a new patient no longer excites me. Everything is a routine for me. I now dont see patients as friends who will give me new knowledge. I now see them as a burden, additional workload i wanted to run away from.

I am no longer amazed by that white coat. Actually, wearing it on a humid day feels like hell. Working in a crap hospital means there are no air conditioning systems in the wards. Good that wearing that long-sleeved white coat is not strictly observed here lest i'll always end up bathing in my own sweat or taking a bath more than thrice a day.

Where have all the excitements gone? Why cant i find fulfilment? I still am doing what's required of me. I still am performing my role as a physician but i get tired so easily. Am i already desensitized? Did my predecessors feel the same thing when they were my age? There's just one thing that i need to do. A change of profession is definitely not the answer. Once a doctor, always a doctor i will be. REST is all i need.

Ten months and i didnt have a break. Ten months, everyday, i report to the hospital. No day off, not even on holidays. I wanted to be absent from work but it's not just my attitude to run away from my responsibilities. Rest, rest, rest. How i wish i could have that rest that i need. Give me just one day off from the hospital. Dont let me see the wards, dont show me a patient, dont ask me to report to the hospital and i'll be fine. I'll be back to my old self again. Vibrant, full of life, full of enthusiasm to save a life. Can't wait for summer to come. Patience self, delay your gratifications. Ahhh life. You really are ironic. Sick people go to the hospital to get well. Doctors however wanted to leave the hospital that's making them sick.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Lessons While in a Queue

It has almost been a routine for me to pass by National bookstore before i go home from the hospital. Tonight, I was in a queue patiently waiting for my turn at the cashier to pay for the magazines and ballpens i bought. So as not to waste my time, i started reading the pages of my new magazine. I was already next to the lady who's paying at the cashier when someone, a woman in her late 30's, who looks like a teacher or an office girl (she was in uniform but i really dont know of what institution), barged in between the lady at the cashier and me.

She chatted with the lady in front of me appearing as if she was her companion. At her left hand, she was carrying her bag and hidden behind it is a book. I was just looking at her doubtful that this woman's making a "pasimpleng singit". I then saw her took her wallet, her Laking National Card and some cash. The book was out on top of the counter ready to be paid. I wrapped my arms, still looking at her with a questioning look, "Where the hell did you come from?" The nerve didnt bother to look behind her. I guess from her peripheral vision, she could see me never battling an eyelash on her. Instead, she deliberately let her long, split-end laden hair cover her ugly face.

Patience cel...patience. You just have to extend your patience to people at times. Understand them. Yep! No matter how difficult. This i've been repeating and repeating in my mind. I shifted my gaze towards the book she bought. Whoah! To my surprise, the book's entitled, "Embracing the Mysterious God."

The hell! This woman, who looked learned enough, dressed in a uniform, is reading a religious book doesnt know the basic lesson in "falling in line!" If she didnt feel guilty and that she didnt recognize that what she was doing was wrong or shameful for a woman like her, then why did she hide the things she bought when she barged in between me and the woman in front of me in the first place?

I placed the magazine i bought at the counter in front of me. Just when i was about to react to the woman's wrongdoing, the magazine i bought, that happens to be Kerygma (a Catholic inspirational magazine), reminded me to cool down. It's a shame too if i would react violently at her in an UN-Christian manner. Sometimes, when i'm having a pms, i just couldnt predict what might come out of my mouth so shutting up was a better alternative.

Let those angry words remain in the confines of my language area. Besides, it took her just about 10-minutes at the cashier. Let my angry looks complete with my arm-crossing be enough and let her shame never put her to sleep. I started thinking of happy thoughts and what came out of my mind was myself, shaving the woman's split-end-laden hair....ooops sowee...wicked me...Erase!

Ahh no wonder she bought that book she has been hiding. With the attitude that she has, God really is still mysterious. The magazine i bought already enlightened me before i finished reading it. I pray that the book she bought would also enlighten her. Should i also recommend that she read Robert Fulghum's book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Maybe there's a lesson there somewhere about "falling in line."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

5:30 Habit

Call it the "530 habit" but we usually visit this certain cafe in town after office hours...unfortunately usually when i'm from duty. Which means that ill be having a fix of methylxanthine...a caffeinated drink that is. As a consequence, instead of falling into a deep sleep because of my from duty status, i end up in front of this tube waiting for sleep to visit me. We call this "530 habit" as "Bo's Session."

What happens here is that we just talk about everything. No specific topic actually. It could be a continuation of a topic started at the hospital or anything from under the sun that we could share over coffee. In return, this becomes therapeutic for me and my colleagues. Credit it to the effects of caffeine or to the encouragements we get from the things we discuss.

As for tonight, we talked about a lot of things. Jumping from one topic to another. Expressing everything our imaginative minds could share. May it be a topic about our work, life, love, or fantasy. Yep! Fantasy. Customers beside us might wonder what we are talking about sometimes. We just laugh at things that only us could understand. Is it a group autism?hehe

Now, what do i get from this chat session? My hundred bucks for coffee actually goes a very long way. Encouragement whenever i feel toxic with work. More strength to move on in my current profession. Passion to keep my will to serve. Gratefulness for feeling so blessed. Affirmation that i am in the right work and workplace. In short, aside from the euphoria that i get from my methylxanthine fix, my heart is once again readied for my next day's work in the hospital.

Who says spending a hundred bucks for coffee is a luxury? It's not just the coffee that i'm paying my hundred bucks for. A grande of coffee goes with camaraderie, bonding, friendship, encouragements, name everything - for FREE.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Mom!

It's been a very long and tiring day. Before i retire, i just would like to document a few things that have happened today. Today's quite special for my family most especially for my dear mom. For today, she celebrated her 50th birthday.

Working with people older than i am, most were amazed that my mom's just 50 years old. Those who met her already were more amazed when they found her younger than her age. Well, in terms of age, she isnt that old as others would expect for I am the eldest in the family and she got married at 22. Therefore, she already produced a doctor at age 50. In appearance, i guess working in a beauty company helped a lot in hiding her real age.

A small gathering for a little more than a 100 hundred guests in a restaurant concluded this day. We prepared a small tribute for her though the script, the sounds, everything were completed just this morning. It turned out just fine as most guests have commented. My siblings were good enough in doing their assigned tasks. Well, i realized that it really is an advantage when you're the eldest. I acted as the director, assigned tasks to my siblings, thus keeping me away from the limelight.hehe My younger sis gave a testimonial in our behalf, my only bro was the emcee and our youngest sis impersonated mom in our tribute. But hey, i also exposed myself to the public. I held the microphone when we sang our concluding song for mom. Sheesh, i just wasnt born a public performer.

After hearing all the testimonials that my mom's friends said about her, i was once again reminded that im so blessed having a mom like her. For 27 years, i just couldnt think of a time that i wished i would have another mom. My mom's my inspiration and my model of strength, courage, charity and faith. Well, anyone who has a mom might also think the same towards his/her mother. The kind of persons that my siblings and i have become are products of my mom's labor of love. Well, it's quite obvious that im so grateful having her as my mom for im dedicating this blog to her.

There's just another thing that my mom taught me tonight. Seeing her and my father so happy as a couple, i was reminded of that single night that we were watching tv together. That night, we witnessed on tv the cruelty of the life of a single woman. My mom reminded me, after hearing my joke before that i would want to be single for life, that she would want me to get married and have a family of own. I just answered with a sheepish grin associated with my alter ego's "Duh?!?".

Though i really cant picture out myself tied to a husband and craddling a baby, tonight, witnessing my mom so happy and contented with her life, changed all my views. Gone are the apprehensions and fears. Tonight, I am assured that no matter how i mess things up, my mom's there to inspire me and to encourage me.

Alright mom, i also want to be like you. I'm saying this not just to make you happy. Your presence constantly reminds me that "Hey Cel! You came from a woman of faith and of strength. You could turn every mishaps and misfortune into a blessing."