Birthdays are special days. The day you became you. The culmination of your parents’ genes into what is uniquely you. “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”1 I have had a truly remarkable year. This time last year I was beginning the final year of residency. I was at the top of the food chain. The senior walking through the halls. The short-timer.
The hubs and I spent a wonderful weekend away. We went to our old haunts to eat, drink, and celebrate. Celebrate the survival of another year. But oh, we have done more than survived this year.
But what about those that haven’t? The day prior to our whirlwind celebration Katroo-style, I had a full clinic afternoon. I was on the verge of celebrating a year that has past and a year about to come when I was smacked with a patient in the afternoon whose years have now turned to months. She reminded me of how just mere months ago, she was diagnosed in her own whirlwind. In the blink of an eye, she went from an 80-hour a weeker for the local university to a patient with cancer. Every day is about the next appointment. The next time to take medication. The next symptom. On leaving, she told me she was just glad to have survived this long and wanted a hug, in case. She was weeks past her original deadline. There will likely not be another birthday for her.
The next day brought the stark contrast. Giggles. Singing. Dancing. The happiest of birthdays. I am so incredibly blessed.
Then, from the top of the mountain we were thrust to the valley. Knocked from our swirling glitter to the cold black and white of a multi-trauma MVA on the side of the highway. Thank God for a complete training that helped us help those in need as we were witnesses and first responders. I should’ve paid more attention during the wilderness medicine afternoons, though. The side of the road is neither an office nor a hospital.
After, when we were both coated in the blood of the fallen, it’s difficult to find that light. Where did the sun go? How did the clouds and darkness move in so quickly? How do you celebrate life when you find yourself surrounded in death? It was a long ride in silence followed by a longer hot shower. Then, true to medical form, you discuss. You dwell. You share with people who both understand, and who wish they understood, (but secretly are glad that they don’t).
We found the light, it eventually always comes back, and enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate another year, another milestone, one another.
1Theodore Seuss Geisel
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