If you seek positivity, you will find it.
They keep telling me that I’m going to become a better physician after all of this, a more empathetic one. I will understand my patients better. I will feel what they are feeling. Some good will come out of this terrifying experience. Actually, a lot of good will come out of all of this—I am certain. It was this thinking that got me through the last few months.
I became altered and went into cardiogenic shock in December of 2018. The response team rushed in and huddled around me. I was intubated, lined, and placed in the Intensive Care Unit for days. I’m currently an Emergency Medicine resident going into a Critical Care Medicine fellowship after graduation. Ironic, chilling, anxiety-provoking . . . there are not enough adjectives to describe my experiences as a patient.
It started with a cough. The cough was intermittent, and didn’t seem to be getting in the way of anything for a few weeks. I kept telling myself, “It’s just a cold. It’s just congestion.” My symptoms worsened. I became dyspneic for a few days, and then finally decided to go to the Emergency Department to check myself in as a patient. I was admitted to the floors for my symptoms. We were unsure about what was going on, and I wasn’t exactly being the best doctor-patient. “Don’t get labs on me. Get a chest x-ray. Say that I refused, I don’t care,” I told my own colleagues.
A couple of weeks after I went into cardiogenic shock, I received a full heart transplant.
Onwards and upwards, they say. Thus, I have decided to move onwards and upwards, and while doing so, I will carry many lessons with me after all of this. Here are a few things I learned:
1.) Anything can happen, at any moment, to anyone.
I had just matched into a wonderful Critical Care Medicine program. My life was essentially perfect—socially, academically, and career-wise. This was a humbling experience that reminded me that anything can happen at any moment, good or bad.
2.) It’s okay to take time to process.
Many people think that I was “very positive” throughout my whole experience, but I did have my moments of despair. I was angry. But I knew my negativity wasn’t going to change anything about my situation. I can sum this up in an anonymous quotation I once read somewhere:
If you choose not to find joy in the snow,
you will have less joy in your life,
but still the same amount of snow.
3.) If you seek positivity, you will find it.
With my experiences, I was able to start a blog, which connected me to many people in similar situations. I was able to become an advocate for and raise money for organ donation, as well as educate others about heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and heart transplants through my own story. Since this was all caused by a genetic cardiomyopathy, all of my family members were able to get screened for it. Finally, I will be able to connect with my own patients on a more personal level. I will be able to tell my own critically ill patients that I know how uncomfortable it is to be intubated and awake at the same time.