It’s 7:30am on a beautiful Tuesday morning. I had just survived a bombardment of medical school exams somewhat unscathed and finally had a day off to breathe… well, more so a half-day, but still. I had to take advantage. I could hit snooze and get a couple more hours of sleep. I could go for a nice refreshing swim. Maybe even hit the gym after my several month hiatus. But no, those could wait, I had other plans…
After multiple shots in the dark, I had finally arranged to get a hold of a physician kind enough to let me shadow for the day. Learning the basic sciences was interesting to an extent but seeing the applications of what we were learning firsthand was what I had really wanted. The only issue was that I had no idea where to go. All I had was his name and a time to meet. I figured it couldn’t be too bad.
After parking in the hospital garage, I see everyone walking in the same direction, so I follow the herd. So far, so good. Once we entered the main hospital building, everyone starts walking in different directions. I attempt to find any signs for the physician’s department but no luck. I walk back to the hospital’s front desk and ask for directions. “Enter through the glass doors. Make a right at the mural. Another right at the elevators. Straight for a while. Right then left.” Thank God for help!
I knew it might take me a while to find his clinic, but I had planned accordingly. I got there 30 minutes early because surely that would be enough time. But time quickly dwindled. After walking several hallways and forgetting the directions, I knew I was lost. Lost to the point that I had already been up and down these hallways twice. It was at that point, kindness struck yet again.
“Are you looking for somewhere” … Someone had sensed my struggling and stopped for me. While I had not gathered up the courage to ask a passing stranger for help, I breathed a sigh of relief that someone was kind enough to extend a helping hand first. Had she not approached me, I might have checked a third time hoping the office I was looking for would suddenly appear. Ambiguous directions in a hospital maze usually only got me so far.
I mention the doctor’s name and expect at best to hear a string of ten lefts and rights that I was surely to forget a couple of directions in. Instead, she decides to stop what she was doing and walk me all the way there! I could finally be at ease knowing I would end up where I was supposed to. As she meanders through the hallways, I wonder how I would have ever made it on my own. During our conversations on the walk, I found out she’s a team leader ICU nurse. She was missing her rounds to walk a person she had just met to the opposite side of the hospital. Immensely grateful, I thank and tell her not to worry about me so that she could make it on time. Instead, she reassures me not to feel guilty and that she had been lost countless times when she first started.
While medicine often feels so fast paced with everyone needing to be somewhere, I am forever grateful for people like her who are willing to slow down to help others. While I don’t remember much of that clinic day, what I will not forget is her selflessness and that of others who have helped me navigate these hospital mazes. That desire to help embodies medicine in its very nature. Medicine does not start in the clinic; it starts the moment we step out of our cars. As I finally arrive at the doctor’s office, I wonder where I would be without the kindness of strangers.