Guest Blog: Self-Diagnosis.
I'm traveling to the Canyon Ranch Institute (and spa!!) this morning to give a lecture with Dr. Val of Better Health, so I've asked Adam Kaye to guest post today. Adam and I have been corresponding by email for a while now, and I had the opportunity to meet him last week. He's a type 1 diabetic and in medical school - so he understands what "in the trenches" means on plenty of levels.
Take it away, Adam!
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So, cue up December 1, 2005. It is my second year of medical school. I’ve just come back from Thanksgiving break. My parents had complimented me on losing weight, and made mention of the fact that I almost single-handedly took down one of their Poland Spring tanks. I’m sitting in a lecture entitled “The Presenting Signs of Diabetes.” As I’m sitting there listening to the professor’s description of polydipsia (increased thirst), polyuria (increased urination), weight loss, and fatigue, my mind begins to go into its usual “Second Year-itis” routine … only I can’t shake the feeling that this is real.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you can fill in the rest of the story. My first diagnosis in medical school was in fact myself.
Now fast-forward to third year of medical school. Third year is easily the toughest year for medical students, both intellectually and physically. You leave the cozy confines of the lecture hall for the sterile floors of the hospital to practice your newly-learned skills as a diagnostician. The work can be, at times, very rigorous physically, as well as intellectually. I am lucky enough to be at a school where our “overnight call” (read: staying up all night) is kept to a minimum, but the demands of many of my rotations meant very long, odd hours. On my surgery rotation, for example, I would be at the hospital around 5:30 am to round on patients. Surgeries would begin at 7:00 am, sometimes lasting well past lunch. Surgeries could be scheduled in the afternoon, too, meaning we would have to wait until the late evening to round on patients again. With so much to do, and so many hours at the hospital…well, not much time built in for diabetes management. As opposed to the regimented, strictly scheduled second-year routine I had spent 6 months getting accustomed to (my only 6 months as a diabetic, mind you), I was now flung into the chaotic, regiment-less world of a hospital.
Our fellow Type 1’s can relate to the fact that the world doesn’t wait for us. The rest of the world doesn’t want to wait 15 minutes to eat—they want to eat quickly and get right into the next patient’s room to keep the patient queue in check. The rest of the world doesn’t want us to scrub out from a surgery to check our sugar, they want me to keep holding traction so they can see the whole operating field. The patient will be alarmed, even in a noisy hospital setting, by the BEEEEEEEEEEEEP of my Dexcom, and will be even more confused when I have to excuse myself in the middle of a physical exam to check my sugar.
Reading other Type 1’s experiences on sites like Six Until Me, I know I’m not alone. I know we all deal with the frustrations of a world not waiting for us, of a world that just doesn’t get it — a world full of “real people.” As a medical student, however, I’ve been given a crash course in how to deal with them.
I can only hope my experience has helped me become a better doctor — to understand my patients’ diseases and how frustrating it can be to deal with “real people” on a constant basis. As doctors, we ARE the “real people”—we don’t know, for the most part, exactly what our patients are going through—but I at least have a head start in my training towards understanding the patients’ side of things.
Editor's note: Thanks, Adam! And more guest posts coming in the next few weeks!